NEWS

Luka Magnotta murder trial begins in Montreal Monday

09/28/2014 06:00 EDT | Updated 11/28/2014 05:59 EST
More than two years after the gruesome slaying in Montreal of Concordia student Jun Lin, the man accused of his murder, Luka Rocco Magnotta, is facing a jury of his peers in a trial expected to attract worldwide attention.

Magnotta is charged with five offences, including first-degree murder, in connection with Lin’s death. Quebec Superior Court Judge Guy Cournoyer will preside over his trial, which will take place at the Montreal Courthouse.

The 32-year-old Ontario native has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Lin’s slaying was one of the most publicized cases in recent history, though details surrounding the Chinese student’s death are now under a publication ban.

The court is expecting that a large number of journalists and curious onlookers will be present for the proceedings, which begin tomorrow.

Jury selection challenges

Earlier this month, Magnotta’s lawyer Luc Leclair and Crown prosecutor Louis Bouthillier spent two weeks carefully selecting the jury, a challenging exercise given the high-profile nature of the case.

Roughly 1,600 people received a jury summons, and the lawyers interviewed more than 100 men and women to screen for impartiality and language skills. The jurors selected are all bilingual, as evidence will be presented in both French and English.

Potential jurors were also asked if they would be able to stomach graphic and disturbing evidence, foreshadowing what is to come during the trial’s predicted six- to eight-week duration.

On Monday, two of these jurors — considered “spares” — will be dismissed, and the 14 left will sit in on the trial. Only 12 will decide on the verdict, but because of the length of the trial, the court opted to select extra jurors on as a safeguard.

Testimony of about 60 witnesses expected

After the judge’s initial presentation and the prosecution’s opening statement Monday morning, the first witness will be called to the stand.

Jean-Pascal Boucher, a spokesman for the Crown prosecutor's office in Montreal, says the court will hear the testimony of about 60 witnesses in total.

Boucher adds that while the trial will generate much publicity, details of the case will not be shared with media until the jurors hear the evidence in court.

"We know that all around the world, in Europe specifically, there is an interest, media interest, but for the [Crown prosecutor's office], it's the same," he says. "We have to manage the evidence to make sure that jury will get all the evidence, and the judge too, and at the end, we want justice.”

Court staff have arranged to make space for more than a hundred attendees, who will be able to watch the trial on video screens in two separate "overflow" rooms located in the courthouse.

The courtroom itself is very small — aside from space for the accused, the court staff and 14 jurors, it only has 13 seats. Five of those are reserved for the press, five are open to members of the public and two spots have been set aside for members of Lin’s family, who will be travelling to Montreal from China.

One spot is reserved for a member of Magnotta's entourage or family.

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