Lawyers attempting to select 14 jurors from 1,600
By Angela Espinoza, News Editor
Jury selections for the Luka Magnotta trial began in Montreal on September 8. Roughly 1,600 were initially selected, with the goal of trimming the number down to 14 bilingual people (12 jurors and two substitutes).
Magnotta caught the public’s attention on May 30, 2012, when he became a suspect in the grisly murder of Jun Lin, a Chinese international student. Magnotta filmed the murder, in which he dismembered Lin, and posted it online. After Magnotta mailed Lin’s body parts to several elementary schools and two political offices—including one addressed to Stephen Harper—Magnotta fled the country. Magnotta was eventually found and arrested in Berlin in June of 2012, and has been awaiting the trial since.
The trial is set to begin on September 22, and is expected to last six to eight weeks. Part of the reason the number of juror selections is so high is due to the need for jurors who have not pre-judged Magnotta. Hundreds have already backed out of serving as jurors, citing reasons from previously formed opinions of Magnotta to, as the Toronto Sun reported, one’s inability to stay awake.
There is much concern over whether Magnotta will receive a fair trial due to his long and known history of fame-seeking and creating shock videos. The murder of Lin is not the first time Magnotta has caught the public’s attention, having previously been convicted for credit card fraud. Magnotta has also tried out for numerous reality shows and created dozens of online profiles.
Criminal lawyer Michael Lacy spoke to CBC about the complications of pre-judging the accused. “You can ask [jurors] if they’ve formed an opinion about the guilt or innocence of the accused that would cause them not to be impartial, and therefore they cannot serve on the jury,” said Lacy.
“There’s challenges here to getting a fair trial, obviously, but those challenges are met through various means the criminal justice system has developed to address those types of issues.”
In Canada, it is rare for someone to have as known a history as Magnotta’s prior to a major court appearance. Finding unbiased jurors is often possible, as well as necessary, but in a case like Magnotta’s, the selection of jurors is going to be difficult.
Magnotta is charged with first-degree murder, performing an indignity to a body, publishing obscene material, mailing obscene material, and criminal harassment of Stephen Harper. Despite the recorded footage of Lin’s murder, Magnotta is pleading not guilty to all five charges laid against him.