Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Grisly murder hearing a draw

Retiree, students, fan watch Magnotta case

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MONTREAL -- They are the tiny segment of the population that has heard the disturbing evidence at the high-profile case of alleged killer Luka Rocco Magnotta.

Unlike lawyers, court officials and journalists, these curious court-watchers didn't get paid to observe the testimony at Magnotta's ongoing preliminary hearing in Montreal. They chose to be there.

None of the evidence at the preliminary hearing, which has attracted international media attention, can be published because of a court-ordered ban.

So the only way for the public to know what's going on is to show up. That's what a few university students, a restless retiree and at least one admirer of the accused have decided to do.

"You can either sit at home and stew in the fact that there's a publication ban, or you can come here and sit in the courtroom," said recently retired Lucy Adams, who tries to arrive at the courthouse two hours before the 9:30 a.m. start time in order to snap up a seat.

"It's almost like watching theatre. You don't have to do anything about what you observe. You enjoy what you see. Not that this is theatre or fiction or anything -- not by a long shot."

Magnotta, 30, faces several charges, including first-degree murder, in the gruesome slaying and dismemberment last year of 33-year-old university student Jun Lin.

Testimony at the hearing has brought Lin's father, Darin Lin, to tears and forced him to rush from the courtroom. Magnotta himself collapsed in the prisoner's box this week after watching video evidence, and he has appeared to wipe a tear at times.

So far, Adams said she hasn't found the evidence difficult to take in. The former health-care professional, who spent most of her 40-year career in the field of psychiatry, has put attending high-profile homicide cases such as Magnotta's on her "bucket list."

Medical students attended proceedings this week to observe how a forensic pathologist, toxicologist and odontologist presented their reports to the courtroom. They also watched how the experts handled themselves during questioning.

A criminology undergraduate from Université de Montreal said her professor suggested students in the class attend at least one day of Magnotta's hearing. Second-year student Claudia Simeone admitted she was a bit nervous. One of her classmates dropped in last week and told her it was difficult to hear some of the evidence.

Magnotta's hearing also attracted at least one fan.

A 22-year-old man, who called himself Kyle, said he drove 1,400 kilometres from Raleigh, N.C., to Montreal to show his support for Magnotta and the defence team.

"I'm not against the victim's family or anything like that," he said, noting he thought Magnotta looked "very attractive" in person.

Kyle proudly declared he made eye contact with Magnotta several times in the courtroom. He also displays his obsession with Magnotta in a blog, which features flattering photos of him.

During his stay in Montreal, Kyle visited sites relevant to the case. He even posted a photo from Lin's gravesite.

Kyle said courthouse criminologists requested a private meeting with him after they saw interviews with him in some news stories.

"They just wanted to, I guess, hear first-hand from me about my reasons for being here and just to make sure that my intentions were pure -- (that) I didn't have any ulterior motives or anything," he said.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 23, 2013 A12

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