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Lesser charge sought

MONTREAL -- If Luka Rocco Magnotta is ordered to stand trial, it should be on a charge of second-degree murder and not first-degree, one of his lawyers said Monday.

Luc Leclair told court he intends to make final arguments to that effect later this week as Magnotta's preliminary inquiry wraps up.

Magnotta, 30, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Chinese engineering student Jun Lin. He has pleaded not guilty and opted for trial before a judge and jury. A trial likely wouldn't be heard until next year.

The Crown said only one more witness might appear at the hearing. After closing arguments, a judge will have to decide whether Magnotta's case should be sent to trial.

On Monday, the proceedings resumed after a two-week break. Witnesses included Montreal's Dong Dong Xu, a man described as a good friend of Lin's.

Xu, 30, attempted to have a publication ban placed on his identity, but the judge dismissed the request.

Other witnesses included a Canada Post employee and a police constable.

Also, the court heard from two witnesses each from St-George's School, an all-boys school, and two from False Creek Elementary School.

Both are located in Vancouver.

More than 30 witnesses have been heard so far. Prosecutor Louis Bouthillier only plans to call one more, from France.

None of the evidence can be published because of a court-ordered ban.

In addition to first-degree murder, Magnotta is also facing four other charges related to the case: committing an indignity to a body; publishing obscene material; criminally harassing Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other members of Parliament; and mailing obscene and indecent material.

Taser death a homicide

VANCOUVER -- The BC Coroners Service says the death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski in an altercation with RCMP officers at Vancouver's airport six years ago was a homicide.

Homicide is considered a neutral term in coroners' reports, meaning the death was caused by the actions of another person, but it does not imply any blame.

Dziekanski, 40, who did not speak English, became agitated after spending more than nine hours wandering in the airport arrivals area in October 2007 and was confronted by four Mounties who stunned him several times with a Taser.

The incident was captured on amateur video, which fuelled public anger and prompted the government to order a public inquiry headed by former judge Thomas Braidwood.

The coroner's report said Dziekanski died of a heart attack after the Taser jolts, echoing a similar conclusion made in Braidwood's report.

"The finding of Mr. Justice Braidwood was that Mr. Dziekanski died as a result of a cardiac arrhythmia," said coroner Patrick Cullinane.

Budget cuts delay trial

NEW YORK -- A judge in New York says he finds it "stunning" federal budget woes could delay the start of a terrorism trial for Osama bin Laden's son-in-law.

Judge Lewis Kaplan made the comment Monday as he set deadlines for defence lawyers to submit pretrial arguments on behalf of Sulaiman Abu Ghaith.

Ghaith was brought to the United States last month. He's charged with conspiring to kill Americans in his alleged role as al-Qaida's top propagandist after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. He has pleaded not guilty.

Kaplan suggested he might set a trial date as early as September. But Ghaith's lawyer complained, saying public defenders are being furloughed for more than five weeks because of automatic budget cuts.

Cookie Monster charged

NEW YORK -- A man dressed as the Cookie Monster has been accused of shoving a two-year-old in New York's Times Square and has been charged with endangering the welfare of a child.

Queens resident Osvaldo Quiroz-Lopez was arrested Sunday afternoon. He was arraigned Monday on charges including aggressive begging. He didn't enter a plea.

A Connecticut family posed for a photo with the man dressed as the Sesame Street character.

Police say he demanded $2 but the family refused to pay. A criminal complaint says the man shoved the toddler and yelled obscenities at the family.

Quiroz-Lopez has no prior arrests.

-- from the news services

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 9, 2013 A7

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