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Magnotta wants public, media barred from preliminary hearing

Brian Daly. (Philippe-Olivier Contant/QMI Agency)

By Brian Daly, Postmedia Network

Luka Rocco Magnotta is escorted off a plane by Montreal police at Mirabel Airport, June 18, 2012. (REUTERS/SPVM/Handout)

Luka Rocco Magnotta is escorted off a plane by Montreal police at Mirabel Airport, June 18, 2012. (REUTERS/SPVM/Handout)

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MONTREAL - Reporters aren't allowed to relay details of an upcoming preliminary hearing for alleged body-parts killer Luka Magnotta, but he wants journalists barred from the courtroom altogether.

Magnotta's lawyer, Luc Leclair, will push for the ban next Monday under a little-used provision of the Criminal Code.

Section 537 allows a judge to bar onlookers and media from a courtroom "where it appears to him that the ends of justice will be best served by so doing."

The reasons for the ban were censored in a copy of Magnotta's motion.

The request reads: "The grounds for the application are ... the Applicant has a history of (deleted) and is presently taking (deleted)."

Magnotta, 30, a former small-time porn actor, faces several charges including first-degree murder and indignity to a human body after Chinese student Jun Lin was killed and cut into pieces last May.

Media lawyer Mark Bantey will argue against Magnotta's motion on behalf of several news organizations.

"I'm still searching for a case where the public has been excluded from a preliminary inquiry," Bantey told QMI Agency.

"I've never seen it in 30 years that I've been practicing."

He adds that Leclair will need a burden of proof "even higher than a publication ban" to persuade Judge Lori Renee Weitzman to grant the motion.

The defence has already obtained a publication ban on evidence being presented at the hearing.

At least 15 witnesses will testify against Magnotta, including police officers from Paris and Berlin, where the suspect fled before he was captured a week after Lin's death.

The Crown is also expected to include a video purported to show the murder.

If the case goes to trial, it will likely be one of the most heavily publicized court hearings in Canadian history because dozens of foreign journalists are planning to attend.

Fear and uncertainty gripped the nation after Lin's hand and foot were mailed to political parties in Ottawa, and other parts were sent to two schools in Vancouver.

It became one of the top stories in the world last June amid details of Magnotta's creepy narcissism, reality-show auditions and heavy social media presence.

The Toronto native was one of the world's most wanted men after he fled to Europe. He was arrested in Berlin by which time the case had become one of the top stories worldwide.

brian.daly@sunmedia.ca

 


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