NEWS

Luka Magnotta In Court: Accused Killer To Appear Via Video Today After Return From Germany (PHOTOS, VIDEO)

06/19/2012 08:34 EDT | Updated 08/19/2012 05:12 EDT
AP
MONTREAL - Luka Rocco Magnotta uttered a single word during his first court appearance as he pleaded not guilty Tuesday to first-degree murder and four other charges.

The suspect in the infamous body-parts case appeared calm during his arraignment. He answered his lawyer with a deep-toned, "Okay," but remained silent as he stood during his three-minute appearance.

Magnotta, under heavy security since his arrival in Canada on Monday, appeared via video link. He will reappear in court in the same virtual form on Thursday, when his lawyer may request a psychiatric evaluation.

He was formally charged Tuesday with the first-degree murder of university student Jun Lin, along with defiling his corpse, harassing Prime Minister Stephen Harper and members of Parliament, and publishing and mailing obscene material.

Magnotta is accused of mailing out Lin's body parts to different places including the Ottawa offices of the Conservative Party of Canada, the Liberal Party of Canada and two Vancouver schools. He is also accused of posting a video of the gruesome events on the Internet.

The suspect was impassive as he appeared on-screen at the courthouse, while he was actually standing at a police station in a different part of the city, flanked by a guard and handcuffed.

The 29-year-old murder suspect had arrived in Canada the previous day, shackled as he was returned from Germany aboard a military plane to face justice in a slaying-and-dismemberment case that has drawn international attention.

The Crown has assigned two of its most seasoned prosecutors to the case. Louis Bouthillier and Helene Di Salvo have worked on a number of high-profile cases. Di Salvo successfully prosecuted former world-champion boxer Dave Hilton in 2001 for repeatedly molesting his daughters.

Bouthillier said he doesn't worry about finding an impartial jury to hear the case.

"Juries have been handling tough matters in this country for hundreds of years and I fail to see why they couldn't handle (this)," Bouthillier said.

"Sure it's going to be a difficult case but they are all difficult cases... This matter is not different from any other."

Appearing before Quebec court Judge Lori-Renee Weitzman, Magnotta lawyer, Pierre Panaccio, mentioned the possibility of requesting a psychiatric evaluation for his client. He said he would take the next couple of days to consider the possibility.

If he asks for that assessment, it will seek to determine whether the accused was suffering from a mental disorder and whether he should be exempted from criminal responsibility.

If the assessment is granted by the judge, Magnotta would be sent to a psychiatric facility for not more than 30 days, after which a report would be filed.

Panaccio, a veteran lawyer who has in the past defended Hells Angels bikers, spoke to Magnotta through a camera in the courtroom.

He told his client that he hoped to speak with him later Tuesday.

"If you wish to call me at home tonight, I'd be pleased to talk about this," Panaccio told Magnotta.

"Okay," the accused replied in a low voice before being led away to detention.

The prosecution will decide on a strategy after hearing from Magnotta's lawyer.

Magnotta is not likely to appear soon at a courthouse, in person. Bouthillier said that would probably only happen during a preliminary hearing or potential trial.

The prosecutors said they would not hold any more media interviews during the case, to avoid feeding a circus-like atmosphere. Reporters and curious onlookers lined up for hours outside the courtroom Monday to witness a brief step in what foreign media have dubbed the "Canadian Psycho" case.

Magnotta, who became the target of an international manhunt, was arrested earlier this month in a Berlin Internet cafe while apparently reading news stories about himself.

He returned to Canada on Monday night in a military transport plane. A motorcade of vehicles with flashing lights rolled out to meet Magnotta at Mirabel airport, and a half-dozen men escorted him off the plane and into an unmarked minivan.

The prosecutors say they'll do their best to keep Lin's family informed of the proceedings.

China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Tuesday when asked about Magnotta's return that China was monitoring developments and hoped that there would be justice to give "the victim a result that can have him rest in peace."

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