Luka Magnotta guilty of 1st-degree murder in Jun Lin's slaying
Jurors in 10-week trial in Montreal found 32-year-old guilty of killing university student, other charges
Luka Magnotta has received an automatic life sentence for first-degree murder, with no possibility of parole for 25 years. He was sentenced to another 19 years for the four other charges he was convicted on.
Quebec Superior Court Justice Guy Cournoyer gave Magnotta the maximum sentence on the four lesser charges, to be served concurrently with the first-degree murder sentence.
Magnotta closed his eyes and showed no emotion after the jury foreman read the highly anticipated verdict in a Montreal courtroom, announcing that the eight women and four men deciding his fate had found him guilty on all charges.
On their eighth day of deliberations on Tuesday, the 12-person jury returned a verdict in the killing and dismemberment of Chinese engineering student Jun Lin in 2012.
It marked the end of a lengthy and unusual trial that focused primarily on Magnotta’s mental state at the time of the crimes.
Magnotta, 32, a former Ontario resident, pleaded not guilty to the five charges, arguing he suffers from a mental illness, but he admitted to the physical acts of killing and dismembering Lin, and sending his body parts with menacing notes to political parties and schools.
The jury sat through 10 weeks of often graphic testimony. Lin, 33, a Chinese national, was studying at Montreal’s Concordia University when he met Magnotta. According to what the accused told psychiatrists hired by the defence to assess him, Lin responded to an ad Magnotta posted on Craigslist looking for kinky sex.
I will never see his smiling face on video chat or hear about his new accomplishments or hear his laugh.- Diran Lin's victim impact statement about son Jun Lin
Cournoyer thanked jurors for their patience and hard work.
"Sir Winston Churchill would be proud," Cournoyer told them before they were dismissed.
Aside from the possibility of finding Magnotta not criminally responsible, the jury had been given several choices for a verdict:
- First-degree murder, if they found the act was planned and deliberate.
- Second-degree murder, if they believed intent was there without planning.
Lin's father, Diran Lin, was in the courtroom as the verdict was read. The family's lawyer, Daniel Urbas, placed a reassuring hand on his leg as the jury prepared to announce its decision.
Lin's mother, who came to Montreal for a portion of the preliminary hearing, remained in China during the trial.
Through a translator, Lin's father delivered a heartbreaking victim impact statement, telling the court that it hurts him still to know that his last words to Jun Lin were "be careful son."
"I feel bad that I was not there to warn him that night," the statement read.
"I will never see his smiling face on video chat or hear about his new accomplishments or hear his laugh. Lin Jun's birthday is on Dec. 30 and he will never be there for his birthday or ours."
No decision on appeal yet
Luc Leclair, Magnotta's lawyer, said he would take time to reflect before deciding whether to launch an appeal.
"Today is not the time to be discussing that," he told reporters after sentencing.
Leclair said the verdict didn't "change his mind one way or another."
He said Magnotta suffers, "as the experts have said, from schizophrenia and personality disorder. When you first see him, it's the histrionic personality that comes forward. However, with a bit of time it's the schizophrenia that surfaces."
Leclair said the case should serve as a warning about the importance of well-funded mental health programs.
"Many of us know someone, a family member, a friend, a co-worker, who has struggled with mental illness," he said.
"Such illness, if untreated, can lead to tragic results as we have seen today. [Prime Minister Stephen] Harper advocates for more and bigger jails, I advocate for more money for mental health. There's a lot of efforts which are being put in that direction, we need more money."
Crown says defence was difficult to mount
Despite waiting more than a week for the decision, Crown prosecutor Louis Bouthillier said he "wasn't nervous" and had expected a lengthy deliberation.
"We had faith that the proof presented during the trial would be successful in convincing the jury," Bouthillier said outside the courtroom.
He said the jurors did an outstanding job.
"Individually, the 12 jurors, they were really magnificent," he said.
Bouthillier said Magnotta's defence was a difficult argument to mount, particularly because the defendant didn't testify and his lawyer bore the burden of proving his client was not criminally responsible through the testimony of experts.
Graphic video part of evidence
Lin’s body parts were found in a suitcase outside Magnotta’s apartment, in packages sent to the headquarters of political parties and two Vancouver schools, and in a Montreal park.
After an international manhunt, Magnotta was arrested in June 2012 at an internet café in Berlin. A German police officer testified Magnotta was looking at an Interpol photo of himself prior to his arrest.
By the time his trial started more than two years later, Magnotta was barely recognizable. The once well-groomed, thin young man who flaunted his looks for modelling photos and a reality show audition had gained a significant amount of weight in custody.
On the day the trial opened, it took an unusual turn. Magnotta admitted to the acts detailed in the five charges, but pleaded not guilty.
During the 10 weeks of testimony, the jury saw a graphic video, which had been posted online, depicting parts of the crime, as well as additional footage found on Magnotta’s computer.
The jury also saw surveillance video of Lin walking into Magnotta’s apartment building the night he was killed and, in the hours that followed, plenty of images of Magnotta cleaning up and running errands, occasionally while wearing his victim’s clothes.
His lawyer spent the duration of the trial trying to convince the jury that his client was in a psychotic state when he killed Lin, unable to tell right from wrong, and therefore not criminally responsible.
Magnotta presented as obsessed
The defence called Magnotta's father, a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic, as its first witness. It also relied heavily on psychiatric reports and medical records to convince the jury Magnotta has suffered from schizophrenia since his late teens.
The Crown focused its case on surveillance footage and witness testimony that Bouthillier said proved Magnotta had planned the killing, and his well-organized escape from law enforcement, months in advance.
Bouthillier presented the jury with an email Magnotta sent to a British journalist in which he described the pleasures of killing and the need to continue – with a plan to produce a video depicting the death of a person. Six months later, Lin was dead and the graphic video was posted online.
The prosecution also painted Magnotta as an attention obsessed, needy man, who drew on elements from the 1990s erotic thriller Basic Instinct in committing the crime.