Magnotta jurors ask: Is a personality disorder legally a ‘disease of the mind’?

MONTREAL — Two hours passed before Luka Magnotta’s jury got the shortest possible answer to their legal question: Yes.

The 12 jurors approached the court Tuesday afternoon for the first time since they were sequestered more than 40 hours earlier, asking whether a personality disorder is considered “a disease of the mind as a matter of law.”

That would be the only time the jurors communicated with the court; they did not reach a verdict by the end of their second day of deliberations.

READ MORE: What does the Luka Magnotta jury have to decide?

The question was in relation to the final instructions Quebec Superior Court Justice guy Cournoyer issued to the jury earlier this week.

The judge on Monday told the jurors that while deliberating they should first consider Magnotta’s state of mind, on account of the defendant pursuing a verdict of not criminally responsible by way of mental disorder.

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In so doing, the jury has to be convinced Magnotta was “more likely than not” suffering a mental disorder at the time he killed Jun Lin, rendering the defendant incapable of appreciating the severity of his actions and understanding they were wrong.

Cournoyer made it clear Monday paranoid schizophrenia, a diagnosis that appears frequently throughout Magnotta’s lengthy medical records and entered as evidence in the trial, is a disease of the mind.

READ MORE: Not criminally responsible myths, debunked

He did not, however, address whether personality disorders — another diagnosis appearing in the records, albeit much less frequently — are also considered diseases of the mind, prompting today’s question from the jury.

Without the jury present, Cournoyer said his notes from the trial indicate two psychiatrists — Dr. Gilles Chamberland, who testified for the prosecution and Dr. Marie-Frédérique Allard, who testified for the defence — said personality disorders can trigger a “micro-psychosis,” which is a loss of contact with reality.

With the affirmative answer, should the jury believe Magnotta has either a personality disorder or schizophrenia, they will still have to determine whether his disorder prevented him from distinguishing right from wrong, Cournoyer told the court.

READ MORE: Psych report reveals Magnotta believed Lin was government agent sent to kill

The defendant, 32, faces five charges including first-degree murder in connection with killing 33-year-old Lin in May 2012. Magnotta admitted to the “physical acts” of his crimes but pleaded not guilty by way of mental disorder, seeking a verdict of not criminally responsible.

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A finding of not criminally responsible would need to apply to all charges, Cournoyer said. The four other charges are: committing an indignity to a human body, publishing obscene material, criminally harassing Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other members of Parliament, and mailing obscene and indecent material.

If the jurors do not believe Magnotta was in a state of psychosis, as the Crown has argued, they need to unanimously determine his guilt for each of the five charges.

Crown prosecutor Louis Bouthillier argued doctors misdiagnosed Magnotta with schizophrenia and, agreeing with a psychiatrist he hired, attributed Magnotta’s behaviour to a personality disorder.

For the murder charge, they have three options: first-degree murder, second-degree murder and manslaughter.

The jurors heard some 66 witnesses over 40 days the trial sat.

They are sequestered with a mountain of evidence including hundreds of hours of testimony transcripts, surveillance tapes and bloody clothing.

READ MORE: Berlin man tells court about meeting Luka Magnotta, taking killer into home

While the jury was out of the room Wednesday, Bouthillier told the judge one of his witnesses was seeking compensation from the court.

Frank Rubert, oblivious to the ongoing international manhunt for Magnotta, took the Ontario native into his Berlin home for three days before police caught up to Magnotta.

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Rubert is asking to get money back for a cab ride and lost wages. He also issued a 350-euros receipt (about CAD $500) for the cost of having his dog looked after for the few days he was in Montreal.

“I can’t for a minute support this man’s word on these matters,” Bouthillier told the judge, adding he had no way of knowing if the receipts are real.

Rubert’s lengthy criminal history was aired while he was on the stand in October.

With files from The Canadian Press

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