MONTREAL — A Canadian man accused of dismembering his Chinese lover and mailing the body parts to schools and political parties around the country admitted to the killing but pleaded not guilty Monday. His lawyer said he is schizophrenic and not criminally responsible in his opening remarks at the trial.
Luka Magnotta, who faces five charges in connection with the 2012 slaying of engineering student Jun Lin, appeared before a jury and Quebec Superior Court Justice Guy Cournoyer. The gruesome case shocked Canadians and quickly gained international notoriety after body parts arrived at offices of Canada's biggest political parties and a video appeared online that prosecutors say shows Magnotta stabbing and having sex with the dismembered corpse.
The judge said the jury must determine Magnotta's mental fitness at the time of the killing.
Defense attorney Luc Leclair told the court that Magnotta is a diagnosed schizophrenic and "has admitted the physical acts for each of the offenses."
"The issue of whether Mr. Magnotta is exempt from criminal responsibility will be the issue you will have to deliberate on," he said.
Magnotta, 32, wearing a grey sweater, dark pants and dark-rimmed glasses, pleaded not guilty to all charges as he stood behind a metal-and-glass enclosure.
His defense will fight a murder charge and four others: 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.
In May 2012, a package containing a severed foot was found at the headquarters of Canada's ruling Conservative Party. That same day, a hand was discovered at a postal facility, in a package addressed to the Liberal Party of Canada.
Lin's torso was found in a suitcase at a garbage dump outside Magnotta's apartment building in Montreal. About a week later, the missing foot and hand were found mailed to two schools in Vancouver.
Magnotta eventually was arrested in Berlin after an international manhunt.
In his opening address, prosecutor Louis Bouthillier warned the jury to expect "graphic" and "gruesome" evidence, including the video and photographs of Lin's dismembered body.
"Indignities are then performed on Mr. Lin's body," Bouthillier said.
Bouthillier said he will demonstrate Magnotta planned Lin's killing up to six months in advance, and show he laid out those plans in an email to a London journalist who will testify during the trial.
"It is our position that this email makes it clear that Mr. Magnotta was planning to kill a human being and that he was going to make a movie of that killing," he said.
The prosecution's first witness, crime-scene technician Caroline Simoneau, presented the jury with photographs taken in and around Magnotta's apartment in May 2012, including one of a torso stuffed inside a suitcase and a portion of a human leg retrieved from a garbage bag.
Leclair said his witnesses will likely include Magnotta's father, Donald Newman, a diagnosed schizophrenic. Magnotta, who was born in Scarborough, Ontario, legally changed his name from Eric Newman in 2006.
"I expect that his father will tell you about the family background and how life was for Mr. Magnotta and the family," Leclair said.
Lin's father Diran is in Canada for the trial, while his mother and sister decided it would be too painful to attend.
Lin, 33, was born in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province. He had only been living in Canada since 2011, realizing a long-standing dream by coming to Montreal.
His family has said that Lin had a comfortable life working in IT at Microsoft's Beijing office, but had sought a move to Canada to study and to improve his life.
At the time of his death, Lin was enrolled as a computer engineering student at Concordia University and worked as a part-time convenience store clerk in south-central Montreal.
The trial is expected to last between six and eight weeks.