Luka Magnotta may have known killing was wrong, psychiatrist says

The psychiatrist hired by the Crown believes it’s “highly possible” that Luka Magnotta was sane and aware that what he was doing was wrong when he killed 33-year-old Jun Lin.

Magnotta's schizophrenia diagnosis was arrived at 'surprisingly' rapidly, doctor testifies

A psychiatrist testifies that the level of organization used during and after the killing of Jun Lin suggest the acts were committed by someone who does not suffer from schizophrenia. (CBC)

The psychiatrist hired by the Crown believes it’s “highly possible” that Luka Magnotta was sane and aware that what he was doing was wrong when he killed 33-year-old Jun Lin.

Dr. Gilles Chamberland was hired by the prosecution to assess Magnotta, but the accused refused to meet with him and the psychiatrist was therefore unable to present a definitive opinion.

In writing his nine-page assessment, Chamberland studied the reports submitted by two psychiatrists hired by the defence, who each concluded Magnotta was in a psychotic state and unable to see that it was wrong when he killed and dismembered Lin.

In the Montreal courtroom Wednesday, the forensic psychiatrist who works at Montreal’s Philippe-Pinel Institute said there are two hypotheses to explain Magnotta’s behaviour.

The first is that the accused has schizophrenia and that explains his crimes.

The second, the one Chamberland favours, is that Magnotta has various personality disorders, but that the initial diagnosis of schizophrenia in his late teens was provoked by use of cocaine.

Magnotta has admitted to killing Lin, and the four other charges against him, but has pleaded not guilty because of mental illness. His charges include first-degree murder and committing an indignity to a body.

The Crown contends the killing was premeditated.

Rapid diagnosis

Chamberland picked apart the early years of Magnotta’s medical records to show what he called the “surprising” rapidity of his diagnosis with an illness such as schizophrenia, which has many symptoms that could also be explained by other mental disorders.

In April 2001, when Magnotta was treated at an Ontario hospital, two crisis workers had the impression he could be faking symptoms of schizophrenia, while the doctor had “a feeling he [was] looking for some secondary gain."

Several weeks later and without a clear diagnosis, Magnotta filled out a form describing his schizophrenic symptoms in order to be approved for financial aid from the Ontario disability support program. 

Four months after the initial visit, Magnotta was rushed to the same hospital, where paranoid schizophrenia was mentioned in the final diagnosis, alongside “Drug OD."

Magnotta was seen at another hospital in March 2002, less than a year after his first visit, and a diagnosis of “chronic schizophrenia” had suddenly appeared on his file.

Chamberland told the court he tends to think cocaine use explains the hospitalizations when Magnotta was in his early 20s.

Personality disorders

In his report, Chamberland points to the various disorders identified by those who have treated Magnotta, including antisocial, histrionic, narcissistic and borderline personality disorders.

The psychiatrist states that the disorders explain Magnotta’s behaviour more fully than schizophrenia.

He concludes that the last medical professional to examine Magnotta before the killing, Dr. Joel Paris at the Jewish General Hospital, got it right with his assessment that the accused was not suffering from schizophrenia.

Chamberland also adds that Magnotta’s crimes have a clear sexual element, and the level of organization used during the killing and subsequent hours give weight to the theory that they were committed by someone who does not suffer from schizophrenia. 

Contradictions and omissions

Chamberland’s report also refers to various contradictions and omissions in the different versions of events Magnotta gave to psychiatrists hired to evaluate him, which Chamberland sees as a sign that the accused may be faking his symptoms.

The psychiatrist notes that the accused said he felt threatened by Lin, whom he believed was a government spy — an explanation often provided by delusional patients.

Chamberland said those patients are generally connected to reality, but simply feel they must act to defuse a perceived threat.

Magnotta, on the other hand, told the psychiatrists evaluating him that he was in a disorganized and confused state when he killed Lin, yet Chamberland notes that disorganization was not seen before or after the crime.

The psychiatrist concludes disorganized thought is not compatible with Magnotta having fled to Europe after killing Lin.

Chamberland explained in his report that usually in cases where individuals are found not criminally responsible, they either display behaviour that is disorganized and illogical, or they experience a structured delusion in which they feel justified to commit the crime.

Magnotta not only offered both those reasons in his versions of events, but also a third.

When asked why he edited and posted a video showing parts of the crime online, he said he felt as if someone was controlling him and forcing him to act.

Chamberland said it is possible that the three explanations work in this case, but that it’s rare for an individual to commit a series of criminal acts and give “three different reasons to justify his non-responsibility.”

The psychiatrist will be back in the witness box on Thursday, the last day of testimony scheduled this week.

The judge has told the jury members they could expect to begin deliberating in early December.