Luka Magnotta pleads not guilty in body parts case
Published Tuesday, June 19, 2012 7:52AM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, June 19, 2012 5:15PM EDT
Luka Magnotta pleaded not guilty to five charges, including first-degree murder, in connection with the killing of a Concordia University student, during a court appearance in Montreal on Tuesday.
Magnotta appeared in court via video conference, one day after he was extradited from Germany to Canada.
Montreal police say Magnotta, 29, is the chief suspect in the grisly killing of Jun Lin, a 33-year-old Chinese national whose torso was found in a suitcase in the garbage behind a Montreal apartment building last month.
Police said parts of Lin's body were mailed to federal political offices as well as two Vancouver schools. They also believe that his murder was videotaped and posted on the Internet.
Magnotta was the subject of a massive international manhunt until he was apprehended in Berlin earlier this month.
Magnotta entered his pleas through his lawyer, Pierre Panaccio. On screen, Magnotta could be seen next to a guard.
Before his client was led back to detention, Panaccio told Magnotta that they could speak about the case later in the day.
"If you wish to call me at home tonight, I'd be pleased to talk about this," Panaccio told Magnotta.
"OK," Magnotta replied.
Tuesday’s proceedings lasted only a few minutes.
Magnotta will next appear in court, again via video link, on Thursday, when lawyers are to discuss a motion to have him undergo a psychiatric evaluation.
Crown prosecutor Louis Bouthillier, who has tried murder cases in Montreal for 15 years, would not discuss his case against Magnotta, saying there was still evidence to be disclosed to the defence.
Speaking to reporters after Tuesday’s proceedings, Bouthillier dismissed concerns that the case would pose particular difficulty to a jury.
“Juries have been handling tough matters in this country for hundreds of years, and I fail to see why they could not handle the matter in this case,” Bouthillier said. “I’m sure it’s going to be a difficult case, but they’re all difficult cases when you speak of murder.”
Authorities opted to limit Magnotta's court appearance to a video meeting after discussing the extensive security measures an in-person appearance would require, reported CTV's Montreal Bureau Chief Genevieve Beauchemin.
Magnotta, originally from Scarborough, Ont., first fled to Paris and was captured at an Internet cafe in Berlin several days later, on June 4.
He was held in German police custody until Canada formally requested his extradition.
Magnotta chose not to challenge his extradition -- a move that could have potentially delayed his return to Canada by months or even years.
The little known porn actor and prostitute was brought from Berlin to Montreal's Mirabel Airport on Monday evening aboard a military transport flight under the supervision of six Montreal police officers.
Footage captured by news crews showed Magnotta emerging from the doorway of the Airbus CC-150 Polaris plane, wearing dark pants and a green-coloured, long-sleeved T-shirt. His hair was cut short.
Magnotta was surrounded by four officers as he walked down the stairs to the tarmac, then into a waiting police van while officers stood by with weapons drawn.
Magnotta was then taken, via police convoy, to an undisclosed location.
"Police said they had to use these extraordinary measures because it was unthinkable to imagine this suspect on a commercial flight back to Canada," said Beauchemin.
"There would be other passengers on the plane, there might be stops and perhaps it would be difficult to get one of the airlines to even carry this passenger."
Lin's family is currently in Montreal, and hopes to eventually repatriate his body to their homeland. However, Lin's head is still missing -- a remaining mystery that police hope to solve during interviews with Magnotta.
"On behalf of the family, we'll do everything to get it back," Montreal police Cmdr. Ian Lafreniere told reporters shortly after Magnotta's arrival at the airport.
In an open letter, Lin's family have thanked everyone who offered them assistance and emotional support in Canada.
Helene Di Salvo, who will prosecute the case along with Bouthillier, said she and her co-counsel hope to speak to Lin’s family this week, and will keep them apprised of the case as it proceeds.
Magnotta is facing five criminal charges, including first-degree murder, defiling a corpse, publishing an obscene matter, mailing obscene matter and criminally harassing Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other members of Parliament.