Top 5 courtrooms to watch in 2014

Michael Friscolanti on the trials of Brian Burke, former porn stars and alleged bombers

From a former porn star to the alleged Via Rail bombers, the country’s courtrooms will be busy. These five cases and the colourful characters behind them are sure to capture our attention.

Luka Magnotta

1. Luka Magnotta

Arrested in Germany after a global manhunt, the self-described porn star and obsessive self-promoter has spent the past 18 months in a Montreal jail, his trial scheduled to begin Sept. 8. Now 31, Magnotta is accused of brutally killing a Chinese exchange student, dismembering his corpse and mailing bloody body parts to Parliament Hill. The Toronto native has pleaded not guilty to all five charges, including first-degree murder and criminally harassing the prime minister. Considering his lust for the spotlight, Magnotta is no doubt looking forward to all the cameras his trial will attract.

2. Brian Burke

Not that he cares what you think, but most sports fans chuckled at the news: the former general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs (and now president of hockey operations for the Calgary Flames) filed a defamation suit in British Columbia against a group of anonymous online commenters—including “Poonerman,” “Slobberface” and “Sir Psycho Sexy”—who spread false rumours about his personal life. Well, Burke is the one laughing now. In September, he won a default judgment against five of those defendants (“NoFixed Address,” “CamBarkerfan,” “Lavy 16,” “Tulowd” and “Naggah”) and in 2014, his lawyers hope to unmask their real identities—and collect Burke’s still-to-be-determined damages.

3. Via Rail terror suspects

One was a failed Palestinian refugee claimant who managed to avoid deportation from Canada. The other was an engineering Ph. D. student at a Quebec university. Together, Raed Jaser and Chiheb Esseghaier are charged with participating in a sinister plot to derail Via passenger trains—a murderous plan, police say, that included “direction and guidance” from al-Qaeda elements in Iran. The pair’s pretrial, covered by a publication ban, is expected to continue through January.

Omar Khadr

4. Dennis Oland

Two years after Richard Oland’s body was discovered in his Saint John, N.B., office—reportedly bludgeoned with an axe—Dennis, Richard’s son, was charged with his grisly murder. A prominent New Brunswick businessman (his family founded Moosehead Breweries Ltd.), Richard was 69 when he was killed. The key clue, police say, was a bloodstain on one of Dennis’s jackets, which turned out to match his dad’s genetic profile. Now 45, Dennis is free on bail while awaiting trial. He is due back in court Jan. 21.

5. Omar Khadr

The mere mention of his name triggers intense (and often irrational) debate among his fellow Canadians. And that was before the latest headlines about financial compensation. More than a decade after he was shot and captured by U.S. troops in Afghanistan, the then-teenage al-Qaeda fighter is now demanding at least $20 million in damages—not from the Americans, but from Ottawa. The latest version of his lawsuit accuses the feds of “conspiring” with Washington to keep him locked away at Guantánamo Bay.

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