Canadian media barred from Magnotta hearings in Europe
Reporters will not be able to cover hearings scheduled to be held in Europe beginning next month as the prosecution prepares for the coming murder trial of Luka Rocco Magnotta.
The decision was made by Quebec Superior Court Justice Guy Cournoyer at the Montreal courthouse on Thursday. Magnotta, 31, is charged with the first-degree murder of Lin Jun, 33, a Chinese national who was studying at Concordia University when he was killed on May 25, 2012.
Magnotta is also charged with indecently interfering with or offering an indignity to a dead human body or human remains, corrupting morals through the possession and distribution of obscene material (a video of Jun’s death was posted on the Internet), mailing obscene matter and uttering threats.
The victim was killed in Montreal, but Magnotta was arrested on June 4, 2012, in Berlin, Germany, and it is believed that he arrived there via France. In February, Cournoyer granted a motion allowing the prosecution to collect statements from more than 30 witnesses who interacted with Magnotta, in one way or another, while he was in France and Germany. The prosecution argued, in February, that the gathering of evidence is required because no foreign country can compel its citizens to testify in a Canadian court.
Almost all court hearings in Canada are open to the public, including members of the media. As Cournoyer noted in his six-page decision “the open court principle generally requires unhindered access to court proceedings.”
Cournoyer was asked, by three media outlets including The Gazette, to rule on whether the open court principle should be extended to the taking of evidence in France and Germany. In both European countries, the accused does not have the ability to challenge a witness’s testimony through cross-examination, as they do in Canada. The prosecution objected to the media being present because France and Germany are opposed to having reporters present when the witnesses make their statements.
In his decision, Cournoyer noted it is “clear that Canada’s sovereign authority ends” with the request that was sent to France and Germany seeking their assistance in setting up the hearings.
“The court comes to the conclusion that France and Germany are well within their sovereignty in opposing the presence of the media in the Rogatory Commission proceedings to be held on their territories. The respective treaty allows the assisting countries to set terms and conditions for their assistance,” Cournoyer wrote.
Any of the evidence gathered in Europe that is later presented during Magnotta’s trial in Montreal can be reported.
By Paul Cherry, GAZETTE crime reporter