A Multnomah County jury convicted Russell Courtier of murder Tuesday for the 2016 killing of Larnell Bruce Jr.
The jury also found Courtier guilty of second-degree intimidation, which functions as Oregon’s hate crime statute, and of failure to perform the duty of a driver.
Courtier’s parents and friends sat in the first row in the courtroom and Bruce’s family and loved ones sat on the bench behind them.
Before Multnomah County District Judge Jerry Hodson brought the jury in for the verdict, he reminded the courtroom to try not to react when the verdict was read. As he read the convictions, guilty on all counts, a whimper could be heard in the room.
Both the prosecution and the defense had shown the jury a video of Courtier and Bruce in an altercation in the parking lot of a 7-Eleven convenience store in Gresham in 2016.
Things escalated and Bruce grabbed a large knife or machete that lawyers say he was trying to sell to patrons at the 7-Eleven before Courtier arrived. Courtier grabbed a can of window cleaner from his car. The video then shows the men going in different directions initially, but Courtier chased and fatally struck Bruce with a Jeep Wrangler.
The Jeep belonged to Courtier’s girlfriend, Colleen Hunt. Hunt was in the passenger seat when Bruce was hit.
Witnesses said they heard Hunt telling Courtier to go after Bruce at the time of the incident. On Wednesday, she pleaded guilty to manslaughter.
Courtier has ties to the white supremacist prison gang European Kindred. Bruce was a 19-year-old black man.
Defense Attorney Kevin Sali argued Courtier was not an active member of the gang because he was no longer imprisoned. Hunt said that at the time of the incident when she was dating Courtier he was active. Courtier has an “EK” tattoo on his leg and investigators found a hat with the letters painted on it at the scene of the crime.
Jurors in the case delivered a non-unanimous verdict on the intimidation charge. Oregon is the only state in the country that allows juries to split 10-2 on felonies other than murder and aggravated murder and still convict a person. The jury unanimously convicted Courtier of the other charges.
Critics of split juries say the laws allow for convictions when there is doubt among jurors, and that they deny defendants of color a jury of their peers.
Oregon’s law was passed in 1934 when the Ku Klux Klan reigned and anti-immigrant sentiment was high.
Last year, voters in Louisiana overturned the their non-unanimous juries law. Oregon lawmakers are considering a resolution this session to bring the issue of non-unanimous verdicts to voters.
Courtier and Hunt are awaiting sentencing.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify Oregon’s non-unanimous jury law.