06/21/2012 04:00 EDT | Updated 08/20/2012 05:12 EDT

Luka Magnotta Court Appearance: Montreal Body Parts Case Suspect Will Face Preliminary Hearing Next Year

MONTREAL - Luka Rocco Magnotta made a brief, surprise appearance in a Montreal courtroom Thursday to tie up a few loose ends in his case before vanishing from public view until early 2013.

The accused body-parts killer had court dates set for early next year and was told he will face a preliminary hearing next March where part of the evidence against him will be heard.

Magnotta, charged with first-degree murder in the slaying of Chinese student Jun Lin, 33, has opted for a trial in front of a jury.

Magnotta introduced his team of three lawyers, including a lead attorney from Toronto. That lawyer did not ask for a psychiatric evaluation, contrary to what one of his colleagues suggested earlier in the week.

His lead lawyer expressed concern about the treatment Magnotta is getting at the detention centre where he's being held. He said he wants to ensure his client gets the medication he needs. Details related to that request are covered under a publication ban.

There was one other surprise twist Thursday: Magnotta appeared in court in person. Authorities had hinted that the 29-year-old murder suspect would appear by video link, as he had at his first court appearance earlier this week.

While Magnotta looked sleepy, he appeared to follow the proceedings attentively. Wearing a plaid shirt and dark blue jeans, Magnotta kept his eyes on the judge during the brief appearance. He didn't say anything, save a few brief discussions with a lawyer through the thick glass.

His lead defence attorney, Luc Leclair, made a brief statement at the end of the hearing.

"Mr. Magnotta waived his rights to extradition because he wanted to come back to Montreal," Leclair said, without taking any questions.

"He trusts the Canadian judicial system."

At the request of his legal team, Magnotta was ferried to the courthouse Thursday from the Montreal detention centre that will be his home until the trial.

The 29-year-old was impassive as he stood in a pen behind thick glass panels inside the courtroom.

There were at least seven guards in the room. Magnotta was flanked by two in the prisoner's box, with a third nearby. Four others stood outside the prisoner's box, around the heavily fortified courtroom reserved for dangerous offenders.

Twelve journalists, including two sketch artists, sat in the gallery. There didn't appear to be any members of the public present.

The Crown would not confirm rumours that Jun Lin's family observed the hearing from an undisclosed location. Montreal La Presse reported that the family was spotted at the courthouse under a heavy protective escort.

Prosecutors did confirm they met with the family earlier Thursday. They have kept a low profile since arriving in Canada to collect Lin's remains, publishing a letter calling Lin "our pride and hope."

Prosecutors have promised to keep the family abreast of developments in the case, and to seek to provide comfort that Canada's justice system is properly handling it.

"The family was met by both prosecutors and our team at the (public prosecution) office, and we want to make sure they get the information about the process, to make sure they know what happens," Jean-Pascal Boucher told reporters.

Magnotta is accused of the first-degree murder of university student Lin, along with defiling his corpse. He is also charged with harassing Prime Minister Stephen Harper and MPs, and publishing and mailing obscene material. He has pleaded not guilty.

Magnotta arrived in Canada on Monday, shackled and surrounded by heavy security as he was returned from Germany aboard a military plane.

Leclair said he has already had meetings with Crown prosecutors about the Magnotta file and is waiting for them to disclose evidence.

Outside the courtroom, Leclair thanked Magnotta's Berlin lawyer for her work as well as a psychiatrist at the Berlin jail for "exemplary care" while Magnotta was in Germany. But he said that's all he'd have to say during the case.

"I have advised my Montreal colleagues not to make any comments," Leclair added. "Comments will be made and addressed to the judge in court."

- with files from Andy Blatchford

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