Magnotta jury must now decide 'what was going through his mind'
Members of a Quebec jury will soon have to set aside their personal feelings and weigh the law against the evidence as they begin deliberations in the murder trial of Luka Rocco Magnotta.
A judge spent much of Monday issuing his instructions to the jury, before a group of eight women and four men were sequestered around 4:30 p.m. The jury will wait until Tuesday morning to begin deliberating.
Fourteen jurors heard evidence during the trial, but two male jurors were sent home once the judge's instructions were complete. One of them had a trip and was excused, while the other was chosen at random.
The judge will have to explain to the jury each potential verdict, including not criminally responsible (NCR), first- or second-degree murder, and manslaughter, criminal lawyer Marcy Segal noted.
What is not in dispute is the fact that Magnotta caused the death of Jun Lin, a student from China. However, Magnotta’s defence lawyer argued that his client should not be found criminally responsible because he was suffering from psychosis at the time of the murder.
The defence called expert witnesses to offer details of Magnotta’s history of schizophrenia.
The main issue for the jury to decide, then, is whether Magnotta really was suffering from psychosis at the time of Lin’s death.
The trial is centred on “what was going through his mind at the time” that might impact his criminal responsibility, criminal lawyer Michael Spratt told CTV’s Canada AM from Ottawa.
According to Segal, if the jury does not find Magnotta not criminally responsible it can find him guilty of:
- First-degree murder, if they believe Magnotta planned the killing and carried it out as a deliberate act.
- Second-degree murder, if they believe Magnotta snapped while assaulting Lin but only to the point that he still knew at some level what he was doing.
- Manslaughter, if they believe that Magnotta only wanted to assault Lin, but that assault resulted in his death.
“It’s not a whodunit, obviously, but it’s a very technical and complicated defence,” Spratt said.
As Spratt noted, the jury is the “judge of the facts” of a case. And so the judge’s instructions will focus on what the laws are and how to apply them to the facts of the case.
“It will be up to the jury to take his instructions on the law and then apply the facts to it to come up with their ultimate decision,” Spratt said.
The judge will also instruct the jury on how to deal with competing evidence from the Crown and the defence, he said.
The jury will have to weigh expert evidence, psychological evidence, “and there are some very gruesome facts that have to be applied to that,” Spratt said.
“The judge is going to tell this jury that to do their solemn duty they are going to have to be dispassionate…and just look at the facts and look at the law to come up with the verdict.”
Crown’s case ‘very strong’
Even though the jury may not begin deliberations until late Monday afternoon, Segal predicted that a verdict could come down late Monday night.
She also predicted that the verdict will be guilty of first-degree murder.
“I think the Crown’s case is very strong, I think the video evidence is telling,” Segal told CTV News Channel, adding that surveillance footage showed Magnotta methodically cleaning up the scene and disposing of Lin’s body. Magnotta appeared to be very organized, buying a plane ticket and fleeing to Europe, she noted.
As for the potential impact that the case may have, Spratt said it is so unique that it will have little impact on common law.
However, if the jury does find Magnotta not criminally responsible, “I suspect there will be a swift reaction from the government,” he said.
The federal government may appeal and could make changes to the threshold for meeting the definition of not criminally responsible.
A not criminally responsible verdict would mean that the issue is far from over, Spratt said.
In addition to intervention by the federal government, it will also spell the “beginning of matters of what could be a lifetime of control for (Magnotta).”