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Crown wanted Magnotta jury to watch 'Basic Instinct' and reality show audition

Luka Magnotta is taken by police from a military plane to a waiting van in Mirabel on June 18, 2012.
Image Credit: RCMP/Handout
December 15, 2014 - 4:26 PM

MONTREAL - Jurors will begin deliberating the fate of Luka Rocco Magnotta on Tuesday with an overwhelming amount of material to consider, including a mountain of video evidence.

While they saw video of a gruesome dismemberment as well as tape from surveillance cameras, there were two other pieces of footage the Crown wasn't allowed to show them at Magnotta's first-degree murder trial.

Prosecutor Louis Bouthillier wanted the jury to watch the movie "Basic Instinct" and an audition tape Magnotta made in 2008 for a reality TV show called "Plastic Makes Perfect."

The 1992 film starring Sharon Stone came up repeatedly during the trial, with the Crown suggesting the movie helped inspire the accused given various parallels between the film and the case.

Bouthillier proposed that the jurors watch the movie and decide for themselves. The defence was clearly opposed to the suggestion, arguing there were no links.

"It's a movie, it's dramatic, it's not meant to be evidence in the trial, it's made for entertainment value," defence lawyer Luc Leclair said.

In the end, Quebec Superior Court Justice Guy Cournoyer did not allow the film to be seen. Before his ruling, he said he'd tried watching it at home.

"To me, the idea that we would watch this whole movie, it's unnecessary, it's time-consuming and, to be plain, frank and honest, I fell asleep last night trying to watch it," Cournoyer said.

"This is not a movie which has supported the test of time very nicely. It's such a bore."

The Crown also wanted the jury to see the audition tape, hoping it would help illustrate the narcissistic personality disorders the Crown argued were afflicting Magnotta instead of schizophrenia.

"My looks, my body are my life," Magnotta says during the taping as he tries to secure a spot on the show.

Cournoyer acknowledged the evidence was key, calling it a "game changer" and dismissing the defence's argument that it was a "smear campaign" against his client.

"This is hardly smearing, it's Mr. Magnotta's own words and it does seem to contradict to a certain extent the state of his mental condition and his medical condition," Cournoyer said.

The judge ultimately acknowledged its value but ruled the 2008 tape was too far removed from the 2012 charges Magnotta was facing.

"It's probably the most powerful piece of evidence the Crown would have," Leclair acknowledged before the judge's ruling.

Magnotta's lawyer only confirmed a few days before the trial was to start that his client would admit the physical acts of the crimes. In the end, it did little to change the length of the trial or the number of witnesses the jury heard.

The defence had said Magnotta wouldn't take the stand, but left the door open until the very end. "Everything is on the table, nothing has been finalized," Leclair told the court as he prepared to present his final witnesses.

Ultimately, the accused maintained his right to silence.

One of the unanswered mysteries at the trial was the identity of the man who appeared in the first 53 seconds of "One Lunatic, One Ice Pick," the video that shows Lin's dismemberment. The man was with Magnotta less than one week before the killing.

Police never found him and he was only referred to in defence reports as a Colombian.

Leclair acknowledged at one point he had an idea of the man's identity, telling the judge he was "in custody."

The information came to light after the judge raised concerns about a Crown question about the man. The name still did not surface during the trial.

"This guy for your information is not from Canada," Leclair told the judge. "As far as I know, he's not in Canada."

The defence lawyer added: "I tried to get a hold of him too. I wanted him as much as the police wanted him."

The Crown also asked questions about promotional material that appeared on the Internet in the weeks preceding Lin's slaying. The material advised online enthusiasts to be on the lookout for the "One Lunatic, One Ice Pick" video.

The screen grab showed Magnotta, his face obscured under the hood of a purple sweatshirt, brandishing a silver screwdriver while standing before a "Casablanca" movie poster that was prominent in the dismemberment film.

The jurors never saw it because the date it was posted could not be verified.

An ongoing issue was Magnotta's transportation to and from detention.

Because he was on a variety of medications, he often appeared dazed and drowsy. Leclair often noted he didn't want to have a mistrial just because Magnotta was not able to properly assist in his defence.

The Crown also wanted to tell the jury about how much defence psychiatrist Joel Watts charged Montreal police to accompany Magnotta home from Germany — $26,000 for 53 hours of work.

The psychiatrist was hired by police for the specific task and ended up being hired by the defence, which didn't sit well with authorities. Bouthillier called the bill "outrageous" and said it was the first time he'd brought up a professional's fees in 28 years of practising law, calling it a credibility issue.

The jury never heard it because Cournoyer ruled the Crown was trying to inflame the jury and trigger a prejudice. Cournoyer seemed unperturbed by the bill, considering Watts was hired on an urgent basis.

"I hope you never get to see what I charged in practise because I think you may have a distorted view of what you think of me," Cournoyer said.

A few other details from the trial:

— Magnotta was accused of tossing his medication in the toilet while in jail, but the Crown was not allowed to question a defence witness about that.

— Two jurors were looked at for potential conflicts but were ultimately not removed or reprimanded once the court determined they hadn't done anything wrong. One was accused of talking about the case at a party while the other worked at a company owned by the family of a Montreal police officer who worked with the spouse of one of the homicide investigators in the case.

— The Crown's expert psychiatrist, Dr. Gilles Chamberland, was dressed down by the judge for making facial gestures while a defence witness testified. Chamberland later sat in an overflow room for the rest of the defence's evidence.

— Leclair complained the jury never greeted him in the halls after the judge mentioned a juror had said hello to him on the way back from lunch. Cournoyer told him a criminal trial was not a "tea party."

— During the jury-vetting process, one of the courthouse constables caught a prospective juror snapping a photo of Magnotta in the auditorium-style courtroom where they were greeted and the accused was present. The judge was then assured the photo was deleted by the citizen.

Follow (at) sidhartha_b on Twitter.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2014
The Canadian Press

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