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Luka Magnotta trial: Crown case nearly complete, defence to call 1st witness

10/28/2014 05:42 EDT | Updated 12/28/2014 05:59 EST
The prosecution in Luka Magnotta's first-degree murder trial has presented its last witnesses, including a German police officer who testified Magnotta said, “You got me,” before he was handcuffed in a Berlin internet café and told he had the right to consult a lawyer. 

Judge Guy Cournoyer told the jury the only thing remaining before the Crown can rest its case is an agreed statement of facts, which both sides are working to verify.

In court today, jury members watched testimony taped this summer from several German police investigators and heard Magnotta did not show emotion after his arrest and calmly refused to answer questions from Berlin investigators.

Another officer said Magnotta seemed arrogant as he was being fingerprinted.

The trial is now suspended until Friday, when the defence is expected to call its first witness.

When the trial began, defence lawyer Luc Leclair told the court that he plans to call Magnotta’s father, who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Leclair said he will focus on psychiatric assessments to argue his client should not be held criminally responsible for his acts.

Crown relied heavily on surveillance video

The jury will have a couple of days to digest the witnesses' testimony, along with all the rest it heard over four weeks from 48 witnesses, before the defence begins presenting its evidence.

Much of the testimony was presented in painstaking detail, with the 14 jurors seeing — and sometimes gingerly touching — dozens of items police seized from the trash outside Magnotta’s apartment.

The prosecution relied heavily on surveillance video, letting jurors watch reels of footage in real time, showing Magnotta repeatedly going in and out of his apartment building, often carrying garbage bags, in the hours after Jun Lin was killed in May 2012.

Video from various airports, bus stations and hotels in Europe were also entered as evidence, as well as footage showing German police officers entering the Berlin café where the accused was eventually arrested.

But the most gruelling moments came during the playing of the graphic video posted online, edited and mixed with New Order's True Faith playing in the background, which showed Magnotta repeatedly stabbing the victim’s motionless body and committing other lewd acts.

The strong physical evidence against Magnotta is not at the heart of this case, since the jurors' task is not to decide whether the defendant committed the acts.

He has pleaded not guilty, though he has admitted to the facts behind the charges against him, including killing 33-year-old Lin, committing an indignity to his body and distributing obscene material.

Criminally responsible?

The jury must decide whether Magnotta is criminally responsible for his actions. The defence intends to show that his mental state prevented him from fully grasping what he was doing.

For the Crown, the key to convincing the jury the killing and dismemberment of Lin was premeditated is an email sent to a British journalist who testified via video link from the Canadian High Commission in London.

Alex West, who was assigned to speak to Magnotta for the Sun, the London newspaper, told the court his paper felt certain Magnotta was behind a string of kitten torture videos posted online.

Two days after the meeting, West said his office received an email that he believes was from Magnotta because it referenced the animal videos and their conversation.

More importantly, the message seemed to foreshadow a murder.

While the Crown gave the jury glimpses into the lives of the “quiet and reserved” victim Lin and the work Magnotta did as an escort through snippets of testimony, prosecutor Louis Bouthillier focused his case on premeditation.

The court was shown footage of an unidentified man in Magnotta's apartment six days before the killing, video that was also included at the beginning of the version posted online.

In the video, a young man is tied to the bed, gagged and blindfolded. In additional footage shown only to the court, Magnotta is seen leaning over him while brandishing a saw.

The court also saw surveillance video that showed the man and Magnotta leaving the apartment building the following day, along with footage six days later showing Lin entering — the last images of the victim alive.

Grisly packages

Bouthillier made a point of calling witnesses whose names and addresses were used as return addresses on packages containing body parts mailed to schools in Vancouver and political parties in Ottawa.

The son of a former prime minister, the sister of convicted killer Karla Homolka and a Montreal lawyer whose mother’s name was used, all testified that they did not know the accused.  

The trial continues on Friday.

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