The Big Picture
Jeremy Christian is accused of killing two people and injuring a third in a stabbing attack on a TriMet MAX light-rail train in Portland in May 2017.
Witnesses throughout the trial have testified that Christian was shouting racist comments while two black teenage girls — Walia Mohamed and Destinee Mangum — were nearby on the train. Mohamed is a Muslim and was wearing a hijab.
Christian faces intimidation charges regarding the two girls. He’s also accused of harassing and assaulting Demetria Hester, an African American woman, on another MAX train the day before the stabbings.
Christian faces a dozen felony and misdemeanor charges, including multiple counts of first-degree murder, intimidation and assault.
The Highlights (What Happened Wednesday)
Prosecuting attorneys began presenting their closing arguments to the jury Wednesday — a summary of evidence and their arguments from the past three weeks on why Christian should be found guilty of all of his charges.
“‘I’m about to stab some motherfuckers.’ That’s what the defendant said,” Jeff Howes, first assistant to the district attorney, said to the jury — laying out Christian’s actions the night before the stabbings when he is accused of assaulting Hester. “Seventeen hours later, he would stick a knife into three people’s necks.”
Howes led the jury through the timeline of events — from Christian’s alleged assault of Hester the night before, to his ranting and alleged intimidation of Mohamed and Mangum, to the stabbing attack itself.
The jury and court again viewed multiple videos establishing that timeline, and Howes summarized the testimony from more than 30 witnesses who spoke during the trial.
In talking through the timeline, Howes reminds the jury that the stabbings only took seconds. “In that 11 seconds, [the] defendant has inflicted 11 stab wounds on three grown men,” Howes said.
Among the videos jurors watched were clips of Christian in the back of a police vehicle following his arrest. In one, Christian talked about the stabbings and about victim Micah Fletcher: “I told him, ‘You ain’t going to heal, punk.’”
Fletcher was in the courtroom for closing arguments, as were family members of the two men killed on the train, Taliesin Namkai-Meche and Ricky Best.
“I hope everybody I stabbed dies,” Christian yelled in the video.
“These are confessions, ladies and gentlemen,” Howes told jurors. “This is a person confessing to what they’ve just done on audio and video.
“ … He has no sorrow for the victims, nothing. He’s just fine with what he’s done.”
Howes wrapped up the prosecution’s case by telling jurors that the evidence is “overwhelming … It’s indisputable that the defendant did these things that were alleged.”
Howes also asked the jurors to listen critically to the defense’s closing arguments, and he specifically asked them to pay close attention to the defense argument that Christian believed he was acting in self defense.
“Just because [the defense attorneys] raise defenses doesn’t give those defenses any merit,” he said. “ … You can’t claim self-defense if you’re the initial aggressor. If you think self-defense applies, then he has to use a degree of force that is reasonable. …
This degree of force was unfathomable. This degree of force was unjustifiable, and this degree of force was illegal.”
One of Christian’s defense attorneys, Greg Scholl, began presenting the defense’s closing arguments Wednesday afternoon.
“This case is not so much about what happened but why,” Scholl said, asking the jurors to not only consider the videos and witness testimony, but questions of Christian’s intent. “The case that you’ve heard about for the last three weeks is not a cut-and-dry case.”
Scholl pointed out to the jury that Christian inflicted eight stab wounds to the victims, not 11, as Howes had stated in his closing arguments.
“There’s some carelessness with what’s going on in this case,” Scholl said. “Careless exaggeration.”
Scholl summarized testimony from the defense’s psychologists — that Christian has “some mental health issues,” including that some of those psychologists diagnosed Christian with autism spectrum disorder and executive functioning dysfunction.
Scholl also talked about Christian’s “obsession” with free speech and said that his ranting on the train was not illegal.
“People are not allowed to just shut a person down. We protect speech that we don’t like,” Scholl said. “A person, if they don’t like your speech, can just walk away. Although, it’s a little harder to do that on the MAX car, a person can just ignore the speaker.”
Scholl talked through some of the same eyewitness testimony that Howes did, specifically witnesses’ thoughts on Christian’s ranting and how it relates to his intimidation charges regarding the two black girls, Mohamed and Mangum.
“What this shows is Jeremy Christian as a provocateur, not intimidating anybody,” Scholl said. “Is he trying to get a rise out of people? Yes, because he’s a provocateur and that’s what he does.”
“For the state’s charges of intimidation to succeed… there has to be proof,” Scholl continued. “That evidence is just not there.”
Scholl also dove into what Christian’s perceptions could have been on the train — referencing Christian’s right to defend himself.
“For Jeremy Christian, there were three people heading his way,” Scholl said, referring to the stabbing victims Fletcher, Namkai-Meche and Best.
He referenced testimony from the defense’s use-of-force expert, stating that Fletcher and Namkai-Meche escalated the situation with Christian instead of attempting to defuse it.
Scholl also reviewed Fletcher’s history of attending far-right political counter protests, his arrest at a rally and alleged ties to antifa — showing photos of Fletcher at political events.
“That’s the person that told you he wanted to de-escalate the situation,” Scholl said of Fletcher.
Scholl referenced something Fletcher had said during his testimony, that he thought stepping into the situation on the train could have had a “positive outcome” and that if he had the same decision to make today, he’d do the same thing.
“He does not deserve to have this whole case hung around his neck,” Scholl said of Fletcher, “But, what he chose to do on that train was incorrect and if he had handled that situation differently there may have been a better chance for a more positive outcome.”
In an attempt to potentially discredit some eyewitnesses, Scholl also pointed out inconsistencies in Hester’s and other witnesses’ testimonies — including one of the prosecution’s witnesses Pete Simi who testified that he believes Christian is a white supremacist.
“This is a witness from the state that is not credible,” Scholl said of Simi, stating he picked and chose specific posts from Christian’s social media when evaluating him.
“Even if you decide that he’s a white supremacist or a bigot or just a big jerk,” Scholl said to the jury, “that doesn’t mean he committed all of the crimes he’s accused of.”
Scholl added: “The issue is not the legality of racism. The issue is did he do these 12 things that the government said he did.”
Scholl concluded his closing arguments by telling the jurors: “His motivation was to defend himself, not to commit murder or any of the other crimes. That’s why he’s not guilty.”
“It’s not complicated. What’s attempting to complicate it is this sort of neuropsychological theory about what might have been going on with the defendant’s prefrontal cortex and his limbic system,” prosecutor Howes said in his rebuttal — referring to previous statements by the defense that Christian was acting due to a “fight or flight” response.
“It’s interesting, but it’s just theoretical,” Howes said.
Howes concluded his rebuttal by telling the jury: “Two people are dead. One carries a scar on his neck for the rest of his life. Two young girls are traumatized… Ms. Hester was assaulted.”
After the prosecution’s rebuttal, judge Cheryl Albrecht read the jurors 20 pages of jury instructions — laying out the rules for how they can deliberate and what they can consider in that deliberation.
Court concluded for the day before jurors had the chance to begin deliberating. They’ll return Thursday morning to begin deliberations.
What Happens Next
After the jury returns to deliberate Thursday morning and eventually reaches a decision, it will give the court its verdict on each of Christian’s 12 charges.