MONTREAL — Crown prosecutor Louis Bouthillier began his cross-examination of Luka Magnotta’s father with questions about his criminal record (unemployment fraud and writing bad cheques), his reluctance to travel and make spontaneous plans, allegations that his current wife had an affair with his son, and recent visits with Magnotta in Scarborough, Montreal and prison.
Accompanied by a man in court to offer emotional support, the 50-year-old man, who cannot be identified due to a publication ban, testified he doesn’t like to travel; he’s afraid of flying, gets anxious in cars and he needs to plan everything out, acknowledging that this is due in part to his psychiatric diagnosis.
He said that he heard about an alleged affair in a letter sent to him from someone named “Diana.” He confronted his son and his wife about the letter’s contents; they denied it and he believed them.
He also told the Crown that this incident had nothing to do with why he lost contact with his son from time to time over the years.
A family history of psychiatric issues
Defence testimony from Magnotta’s father had resumed Friday afternoon with a detailed look at his medical history, his psychiatric problems and the numerous medications he has been prescribed.
He told the jury that his mental issues began when he was 35 to 40 years old, when he heard voices. One in particular, that of his stepfather, would tell him to kill himself.
“Your thoughts and emotions are all jiggled together … voices tell you what to do,” he described.
In 1996, he said that he sought help. Doctors thought he was bipolar and although he was initially being diagnosed as manic depressive, he said “it was a lot more than that.”
Magnotta’s father’s current diagnosis is paranoid schizophrenic manic depressive. He takes, among many other prescription drugs, Zoloft (used to treat depression, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders) and Clozapine (an antipsychotic medication for schizophrenia).
He said that with medication and support from the Canadian Mental Health Association and a team at the Rouge Valley Centenary hospital in Scarborough, he is leading a normal, productive life.
“I still hear voices and things, but not as bad, and I don’t act on them.”
It was because of his own experience with mental illness that he became worried about his son, he told the court.
When Magnotta was 20 years old, he referred him to his own psychiatrist. He said that his son had been hospitalized in Scarborough, Ont., but he couldn’t recall what precipitated it.
As defence lawyer Luc Leclair read an excerpt from Magnotta’s father’s medical records where his psychiatrist noted he was worried about his son hearing voices, Magnotta, sitting in the prisoner’s box, looked up and stared intently at his lawyer.
Magnotta’s father’s voice softened when he spoke about his son.
He told the jury that he had visited him in prison several times, until visits were prohibited.
They spoke about how he was feeling and about the family. When asked if they talked about whether Magnotta had committed murder, his father replied, ‘No … I know he didn’t do it.”
A troubled childhood
Magnotta’s father’s testimony started Friday morning with a question: did he know who was sitting in the dock.
“That’s my son sir, Eric Clinton Newman,” he said, noting that he was there to help his son.
After telling the jury he named his son Eric Clinton Kirk Newman after Clint Eastwood and Kirk Douglas, he went on to describe an unstable and often isolated family life.
He shared how he was first introduced to Magnotta’s mother when he was in grade 10 and she was in grade nine: “It was a blind date, we fell in love.”
He said his father was furious about when couple realized the mother was pregnant at 16. The couple moved into his parent’s basement and were married.
“We had to have special permission because of her age.”
Magnotta’s mother quit school before finishing grade nine and the couple had three children together. According to Magnotta’s father, they had a “happy time” until the mother reconnected with her own family again.
He said that he worked hard and bought a house, but the family was forced to move because he couldn’t keep up the mortgage payments. They moved around central Ontario, living occasionally with his family and with his in-laws.
The father’s testimony was as rambling as the family’s life seemed to be, and he was often confused about dates and places.
Magnotta’s father acknowledged that he had a drinking problem, which he said started after his ex-wife resumed contact with her family. He also said that his wife had issues with alcohol: “vodka.”
He described an intense and isolated family life. Magnotta and his brother were homeschooled by the mother; Magnotta did not attend school until grade six or seven, when the family moved after losing the house.
The father also testified that Magnotta’s mother had psychological issues, calling her a “germaphobe.” Ultimately, their marriage ended in divorce after about 15 years, when Magnotta was a teen. “I didn’t love her anymore,” he told the court. “I didn’t like the way she treated the kids. She made me miserable.”
Magnotta faces four charges in addition to premeditated murder: criminally harassing Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other members of Parliament; mailing obscene and indecent material; committing an indignity to a body; and publishing obscene materials.
The defence is attempting to show that Magnotta should be found not criminally responsible for killing Chinese exchange student Lin Jun in May 2012 because of his psychological condition.
The crown rested its case first thing on Friday morning after presenting 48 witnesses during the trial, which began in late September.