MONTREAL — The lineup of spectators started stretching down the courthouse corridor more than an hour before Luka Rocco Magnotta’s scheduled court appearance in Montreal.
Journalists and interested onlookers — from teens to seniors — queued up Tuesday with the hope of squeezing into courtroom 4.02. They wanted a chance to watch Magnotta’s first date with a Canadian judge since his arrest earlier this month.
The heightened interest in the case forced officials to open a second room to accommodate those who couldn’t fit into the main courtroom.
A half-dozen Grade 7 students, carrying knapsacks and still wearing their school uniforms after finishing exams, were among the group lined up outside the courtroom. The teenage boys waited patiently for the doors to open.
The students were not accompanied by an adult and they said it was not a school trip. Still, they described the goal of the visit as purely educational.
A 13-year-old student named Nykolas, who hopes to be a lawyer one day, said he wanted to see how the defence team operates.
“It’s not the violence that intrigues me,” he said, adding that one student’s mother works at the courthouse.
“I want to see how his lawyer chooses to defend him.”
Nykolas said he told his mom about his plans to attend Magnotta’s appearance. She asked him if he was sure he wanted to go.
“She was scared that some (disturbing) things would be revealed,” he said. “But she knows that I want to become a lawyer, so she thought it would be good for me.”
A woman just ahead of the students in line said she was drawn to the courthouse for Magnotta’s appearance because of the intense media attention around the case. Sensational allegations that the killer posted a grisly video of his crime online also encouraged the 76-year-old to show up.
She described the case in terms generally reserved for celebrity gossip.
“It’s hot to put that on the Internet,” said Michelle. “I don’t think we’ve ever seen that in the history of Canada.”
She said she couldn’t personally bring herself to watch the video. She also refused to give her full name.
“I’m a spectator, sir,” she told a reporter, explaining that she was retired.
“I have time to waste.”
The added interest inside the building wasn’t only reserved for people unaccustomed to court proceedings.
Before Magnotta’s appearance, courthouse staff buzzed as people speculated about who might be part of the prosecution and the defence.
After the brief appearance, Crown prosecutors in Magnotta’s case spoke to a massive group of journalists in the main lobby.
Looming above, dozens of onlookers on the upper floors leaned over railings and took in the scene.
In the scrum, prosecutor Louis Bouthillier was asked if he was worried the high-profile case would become a media circus that a reputed attention-seeker like Magnotta might crave. Acquaintances of the suspect, and criminal-behaviour experts, have described him as a man desperate to be noticed.
Bouthillier quickly scanned the throng of bobbing microphones and jostling journalists around him and replied sarcastically: “Hmmm, you think?”
He said that after Tuesday he would not give any more interviews until the trial was over.
“We’ll let the courts handle the matter, and what I have to say, I will say in court,” Bouthillier said.