A jury of eight women and four men are now sequestered and will begin deliberations tomorrow morning on the fate of Luka Magnotta after his first-degree murder trial drew to a close Monday afternoon.
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The jurors have been sequestered at a hotel near the Montreal courthouse, but they will hold their deliberations in a room filled with trial evidence that they can consult.
Superior Court Justice Guy Cournoyer addressed the jury today, giving his final instructions to guide them through the options they have for a verdict and what they should consider in their deliberations.
Cournoyer told jurors to consider only the evidence heard in court “without prejudice, sympathy or fear”.
He also paid particular attention to the issue of experts and hearsay, since a large number of expert witnesses and forensic psychiatrists testified in the murder trial.
The judge said jurors should be aware that experts can rely on information that is not based on personal knowledge, and it’s up to the jurors to decide whether to rely on that testimony, giving it more weight if they can verify the facts through other evidence or exhibits.
Right to silence
Cournoyer also warned the jury that Magnotta, who did not testify in his own defence, has the right to silence.
“You cannot use his silence at trial as evidence of his guilt,” the judge said.
Magnotta, 32, who grew up in Ontario, has admitted to killing Concordia University student Jun Lin, 33, in his Montreal apartment in May 2012, filming part of the crime, posting the video on the internet and mailing body parts to among others, the prime minister.
He then fled Canada and, after an international manhunt, was arrested at an internet café in Berlin, Germany.
He has pleaded not guilty to five charges:
- First-degree murder.
- Committing an indignity to a body.
- Publishing obscene material.
- Mailing obscene material.
- Criminal harassment.
The judge gave the jury several options for a final verdict:
- If they find Magnotta should not be held criminally responsible, that verdict must apply to all five charges against him.
- If jurors disregard that option, they have more possibilities for the most serious charge of murder: They can choose first-degree murder if they deem the act was planned and deliberate, or second-degree murder if they find there was intent but no planning.
- The jury also has the option of finding Magnotta guilty of manslaughter, but they cannot acquit him since he has admitted to killing Lin.
In the verdicts on other four charges, the jury can choose guilty or not guilty.
A verdict of not criminally responsible requires specific criteria, Cournoyer told the jury, but the burden on the defence is lower than beyond a reasonable doubt, a standard the Crown must meet if they want to jury to deliver a guilty verdict.
Magnotta’s lawyer, Luc Leclair, must have proved “more likely than not” that his client suffered from a mental disorder at the time the crimes were committed.
Altered mental state
If that criterion is met, the jury must look at whether Magnotta, in his altered mental state, knew what he was doing was wrong.
After the instructions, two of the 14 jurors who have sat through the trial in its entirety were thanked and dismissed because the law says a maximum of 12 people can deliberate on a verdict.
One male juror’s name was picked at random out of a box, while the other asked to be dismissed because he has a vacation planned for later this week.
During the 12-week trial, Leclair argued that his client should be found not criminally responsible for his actions. Leclair said Magnotta was in a psychotic state at the time of the crimes and didn’t know what he was doing was wrong.
Crown prosecutor Louis Bouthillier told the jurors Lin’s killing was organized and premeditated, and planned months in advance.
He said Magnotta was "purposeful, mindful, ultra-organized and ultimately responsible for his actions."