Luka Magnotta didn't act like a schizophrenic person, psychiatrist says

The psychiatrist hired by the prosecution to analyze Luka Magnotta’s behaviour told the court Thursday that Magnotta was “ultra-organized” in the hours and days after he killed Jun Lin.

Magnotta's activities after killing of Jun Lin required 'a very high level of organization'

A Crown psychiatrist based his assessment of Luka Magnotta on other reports because the accused, seen here in a photo taken in Berlin before his arrest, refused to meet with him. (Frank Rubert/Trial evidence)

The psychiatrist hired by the prosecution to analyze Luka Magnotta’s behaviour says Magnotta was “ultra-organized” in the hours and days after he killed Jun Lin.

Dr. Gilles Chamberland testified at the first-degree murder trial that Magnotta offered up just enough information to psychiatrists after his arrest to guide them toward a diagnosis of schizophrenia.

Chamberland had to base his assessment on other reports, including the two compiled by the psychiatrists hired by the defence, because Magnotta refused to meet with the Crown’s psychiatrist.

Magnotta has admitted to killing and dismembering Lin, but has pleaded not guilty to the five charges against him because his mental illness left him not criminally responsible.

The Crown alleges the crime was planned.

In the Montreal courtroom Thursday, Chamberland pointed out that in the 48 hours following the killing, Magnotta planned his trip to Europe, cleaned and packed up his apartment, and even made attempts to find escort clients overseas.

“That’s a lot for 48 hours,” Chamberland testified. “It requires a very high level of organization.”

The psychiatrist said that organization is at odds with a major symptom of schizophrenia, disorganized thought, which furthered Chamberland’s belief that Magnotta does not suffer from schizophrenia, but rather a variety of personality disorders.

Chamberland suggested that Magnotta’s earlier diagnosis of schizophrenia in his late teens was the result of drug use.

Organized description of symptoms

The forensic psychiatrist also noted a level of organization in the way Magnotta acted after his June 4 arrest in Berlin.

The accused spent a week being examined by Dr. Thomas Barth, a psychiatrist in the Berlin prison where Magnotta was detained before being extradited.

Barth testified for the defence that he suspected Magnotta suffered from paranoid schizophrenia because he flitted from topic to topic and complained of auditory hallucinations.

But Chamberland evaluated the behaviour differently, pointing out to the court that Barth asked only one question and got a multitude of answers: that Magnotta was hearing voices like a radio and felt watched; he was no longer taking antipsychotic medication; his father was schizophrenic; and that he had an abusive childhood.

Chamberland told the court that if Magnotta was looking to be seen as schizophrenic, he provided the full picture in the first interview, including symptoms, previous medical history and a family history of illness.

After that, according to Chamberland, the accused stayed isolated in his room or simply repeated the same symptoms.

“For me, that’s anything but disorganized thought,” Chamberland testified, adding that Magnotta also minimized his drug use and painted himself as the victim in his interactions with Barth.

Chamberland said that he believes a histrionic personality disorder, where patients are full of drama and seek attention, explains Magnotta’s behaviour in Berlin.

The centre of attention

The psychiatrist noted that several psychiatrists over the years, including those who testified for the defence, found that Magnotta displayed signs of various personality disorders: borderline, narcissistic, antisocial and histrionic.

In court Thursday, Chamberland went through the criteria in the industry guidebook on mental disorders, and coupled them with examples he saw in the accused’s behaviour.

The psychiatrist told that the court one of the traits seen in those with histrionic personality disorder is a marked discomfort when they are not the centre of attention.

Chamberland said Magnotta’s behaviour concerning the rumour he was dating convicted child killer Karla Homolka fits with this symptom of the disorder.

The court has already heard that Magnotta himself likely started the rumours and then took to social media to vehemently deny the allegations.

The accused also denied being the author of a series of gruesome cat videos, although he later admitted it to his psychiatrists.

Chamberland provided these two acts as examples of histrionic behaviour in Magnotta, adding that those suffering from the disorder tend to think that “negative attention is better than no attention at all.”

Another symptom of histrionic disorder is inappropriate seductive or flirtatious behaviour, and Chamberland said Magnotta’s behaviour behind bars fits into that category.

While at the Rivières-des-Prairies detention centre, Magnotta developed a crush on a male nurse, sent him a “crude letter” and tried to seduce him by creating mood lighting in his cell.

Chamberland specified in his testimony that a personality disorder is not an illness, but a group of traits belonging to an individual.

As such, it cannot be treated with medication and therapy is required to lessen the effects. 

The psychiatrist, who is likely the last witness the jury will hear, will be back on the stand when the trial resumes on Monday morning.

The judge has warned jurors that closing arguments could be pushed back to the week of Dec. 8, with deliberations following later that week.

The trial, now in its ninth week, was originally expected to last two months.