TORONTO – Luka Rocco Magnotta has had paranoid schizophrenia for at least 13 years, was treated as an inpatient and outpatient at multiple hospitals and was known to have problems taking his medication, according to a doctor’s letter submitted by Magnotta’s lawyer almost eight years ago.
Magnotta is charged with first-degree murder in connection with the grisly slaying and dismemberment of Chinese engineering student Lin Jun last May.
But in June, 2005, Magnotta was still Eric Newman, and was in court pleading guilty to charges of fraud.
The letter his lawyer submitted helped change the trial judge’s mind and reduce Magnotta’s sentence – made his case, the judge is quoted as saying in a court transcript, “a little more explicable, sort of.”
The letter, written by Rouge Valley Medical Centre psychiatrist Thuraisarny Sooriabalan in May of 2005, says Magnotta had been suffering from paranoid schizophrenia for the previous five years. He was receiving psychotherapy and “health education,” Sooriabalan wrote, and was on multiple antipsychotic medications, including Seroquel, Risperdal, Nitrazepan and Ativan.
At least, he should have been: “Unfortunately, Mr. Newman is not very regular in attending the outpatient department and as a result he misses his medications,” the letter reads, adding that Magnotta missed a March appointment.
“As long as Mr. Newman continues to take the medications regularly, and attends the outpatient department as advised, the prognosis is fair,” the letter reads. “But if he does not comply in taking the medication, he would be prone to relapse of his symptoms, which include paranoia, auditory hallucinations, fear of the unknown, etc.”
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After the letter was put forward, the judge reduced Magnotta’s sentence from 100 hours of community service to 20.
But the letter wasn’t formally filed as evidence in court. And Magnotta’s present lawyer sought to keep it private on the grounds that it would impede Magnotta’s right to a fair trial.
In a ruling that referenced previous cases as well as eighteenth-century British philosopher Jeremy Bentham, Justice Fergus O’Donnell wrote that releasing the letter squared with Canada’s “open courts principle.”
“Like any medical letter, in particular a psychiatrist’s letter, it deals with inherently personal and sensitive matters … but it is a letter that was consciously filed in a public court,” O’Donnell wrote. “To the extent that Mr. Newman would preserve his privacy, that privacy was foregone when the letter was filed in open court.”
Any risk the letter’s publication might pose to Magnotta’s right to a fair trial is “mere speculation,” O’Donnell concluded.
Magnotta is accused of killing 33-year-old Lin and mailing parts of Lin’s body to two Vancouver schools and the Ottawa offices of several MPs.
The case sparked a global manhunt culminating in Magnotta’s arrest by German police at a Berlin internet café and his $375,000 extradition to Canada.
In addition to the first-degree murder charge, Magnotta faces charges of indignity to a human body, mailing obscene and indecent material, criminally harassing Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other members of Parliament and publishing obscene material. He has pleaded not guilty.
His preliminary hearing, which has been subject to a publication ban, is scheduled to resume in Montreal next week.
Read the psychiatrist’s letter detailing Luka Rocco Magnotta’s mental state, sent to his lawyer in 2005: