'Canadian Psycho' admits killing, mental health at issue

2014-09-29 22:37


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Montreal - A former Canadian porn actor accused of killing and dismembering a Chinese student pleaded not guilty on Monday as his trial opened, but his lawyer said mental illness was to blame.

Luka Rocco Magnotta, 32, has admitted to the killing of 33-year-old Lin Jun and other facts connected to the gruesome May 2012 slaying, the Montreal judge told the court.

Magnotta formally pleaded not guilty in a wispy voice to first-degree murder and other charges, including committing indignities to a body and harassing Canada's prime minister.

But his defence lawyer said he would present medical files and expert witnesses to demonstrate the accused's long history of mental illness - now the central issue in a case that shocked Canada.

"Whether Mr Magnotta is exempt from criminal responsibility will be the matter for your deliberations," the attorney, Luc Leclair, said in opening remarks to the jury.

Magnotta is accused of using an ice pick to fatally stab Lin in May 2012, before sexually abusing and dismembering the man's corpse, and then posting a video of the heinous act online.

Days after the killing, Montreal police discovered the victim's torso in a suitcase by the trash outside an apartment building along a busy highway.

Lin's severed hands and feet were sent in the mail to federal political parties in Ottawa - one of the packages was addressed to Prime Minister Stephen Harper - and to two schools in Vancouver. The head was found in a Montreal park months later.

Magnotta fled Canada, but was arrested in Germany in June 2012, following an international manhunt, and extradited. He was arrested in a Berlin internet cafe, after stops in France and elsewhere in Germany.

Packed courtroom

Magnotta sat idly behind a glass enclosure in the cramped Montreal courtroom - with Lin's father looking on from one of only 13 seats in the gallery as the trial got underway.

Prosecutor Louis Bouthillier called on the jury not to be swayed into believing that Magnotta must be insane in order to have committed such horrific crimes.

This was not the act of a lunatic, Bouthillier insisted, but rather a killing that was "planned and deliberate" - planned at least six months in advance.

The defence, meanwhile, said it would urge the jury to order in-hospital psychiatric treatment for Magnotta rather than life in prison.

Superior Court Justice Guy Cournoyer had warned jurors during jury selection earlier this month that they would be confronted with evidence that was likely to be "shocking and disturbing".

Paranoid schizophrenia

At a preliminary hearing last year, questions arose about Magnotta's mental health, but he was found fit to stand trial in two psychiatric assessments.

He had been treated for paranoid schizophrenia - a condition from which he has long suffered - in 2005 when he was convicted of fraud, Leclair said.

Doctors had prescribed antipsychotic medications, as well as drugs to reduce anxiety and help him sleep.

He also attended psychotherapy sessions and health education but apparently did not always take his medication.

Without the drugs, "he would be prone to relapse of his symptoms, which include paranoia, auditory hallucinations, fear of the unknown, etc," a psychiatrist told an Ontario court in June 2005.

One month before Lin's death, Magnotta was diagnosed at a Montreal hospital with borderline personality disorder, said Leclair.

The disorder causes significant emotional instability that can lead to behavioural problems.

Born Eric Clinton Newman, he changed his name to Magnotta in 2006 after years of using aliases such as Vladimir Romanov, or Angel.

The media dubbed him the "Canadian Psycho" after it was discovered that the soundtrack from the movie "American Psycho" was playing in the background of the video of the alleged murder that was posted online.

Lin's family has branded him "a devil".

The trial is expected to last six to eight weeks, with testimony from 60 witnesses and depositions from others in France and Germany.

Read more on:    luka rocco magnotta  |  canada

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