Legal matters can often be very convoluted and complicated, with various situations requiring much arguments with precedents and prior rulings cited to back up unusual requests when they come up.
There is a new bizarre case taking up the space and time of the national media, namely the murder case of Luka Magnotta, who allegedly killed a Chinese student, then dismembered him and mailed the pieces all over the place.
If that wasn’t bizarre enough, the manhunt for this guy was almost equally as bizarre, as the authorities finally tracked him down to an Internet cafe in Europe, where he was caught because he was busy looking up news postings about himself.
Brought back to Canada to face justice, his lawyer decided that the alleged bizarre behaviour of his client wasn’t enough, and he needed to add to them, so he asks for a sweeping media ban on reporting anything at all from his preliminary hearing.
The reasoning, apparently, is that his client has been “vilified” in the press, and it will therefore be impossible to find fair, impartial jurors to judge his case if the reporting is allowed to continue.
There is already a standard publication ban on the presenting of evidence at preliminary hearings, since their purpose is to determine whether there is enough evidence for the matter to proceed to trial — and really, that should be enough. Magnotta’s lawyer wants the publication ban to go way, way beyond that, and that is simply wrong.
The thing is, the media do have a role to play, and ensure the important principles of justice are being observed, including that not only is justice being done, but is seen to be done.
The thing is, there have been many, many bizarre cases before Magnotta, and I’m quite sure the future will bring many more strange and unusual criminal matters. In the strange cases that have come up before, the accused was always able to get a fair trial and subsequent verdict. To an extent, one has to have some trust in the justice system, that even though there may be some problems in the system, it will work the way it’s supposed to.
Granted, there are instances where the verdict or sentence could hardly be considered “justice” for what happened. One could point to a case like, say, Karla Homolka as an example. This, to my mind, was an example of monumental injustice, and an example where plea bargaining is an evil that needs to be rooted out.
In the vast majority of cases, however, justice prevails, and in some senses, good wins out over evil. We should trust the system to work that way with Magnotta, with the press there to see it.