Jurors are set to hear closing arguments Wednesday in the trial of a man accused of murdering two people on a Portland light rail train in May 2017.
The stabbings occurred after Jeremy Christian delivered a racist, hate-filled rant that witnesses have said was directed at two black teens – one of whom was wearing a hijab.
The killings garnered national attention in part because they occurred as hate crimes were on the rise and the nation was becoming more concerned about emboldened white supremacists.
“He told us to die and that we don’t deserve to be here and that we should just go back to where we came from,” Destinee Mangum testified at Christian’s trial this month. She said he was focused on her and her friend, Walia Mohamed, at the time of his rant.
As the situation on the train escalated, some passengers intervened. The confrontation, captured on cellphones and security cameras, turned physical.
One of the passengers was Micah Fletcher. He said he told Christian to stop and tried to get him off the train.
Christian responded by stabbing Fletcher in the neck with a knife – a scene jurors have watched play out on videos.
“I thought he punched me, and I was getting my ready to guard against another one,” Fletcher testified during the trial. “Then I noticed there was blood on my fingers. And I was like, ‘that’s odd.’”
Christian also stabbed and killed two other men, Ricky Best and Taliesin Namkai-Meche. Prosecutors said the entire attack lasted about 12 seconds.
The defense does not dispute that Christian killed two men. They’ve sought to paint him as mentally unstable, and have said he was acting in self-defense.
Defense witness Glena Andrews, a psychology professor at George Fox University in Newberg, told jurors that Christian’s brain has issues with executive functioning.
“How his brain works to make decisions, to function in the world, to assess his surroundings, is not where we expect it to be,” she said.
During cross examination by the prosecution, Andrews conceded that Christian’s condition isn’t a professionally recognized mental illness.
Meanwhile, prosecutors have assured jurors the case is as simple as it appears on the videos of the stabbings.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Don Rees noted Christian’s past racist remarks and violent actions while cross-examining Dr. Timothy Derning, a psychologist who diagnosed Christian as being on the autism spectrum.
“Have you heard of the duck test?” Rees asked.
“No, I haven’t,” Derning replied.
“If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, it probably is a duck,” Rees said.
“I have heard of that,” Derning responded.
“So, it’s possible, isn’t it, that Jeremy Christian is actually exactly what he looks like?” Rees asked.
If convicted of murder, Christian could face life in prison. Jurors will begin their deliberations this week, after closing arguments.