Raw Emotions Fill Courtroom During Bail Hearing For Alleged TriMet Killer

Nov 16, 2017

Defense attorneys on Wednesday provided new details about Jeremy Christian, the man accused of murdering two people in May while riding a light rail train in Portland.

Christian’s defense attorney, Gregory Scholl, acknowledged there was graphic violence on board the MAX train the afternoon of May 26 and that the situation was "tragic."

But Scholl argued before Multnomah County Judge Cheryl Albrecht that prosecutors were only focusing on statements that supported their case, rather than a wider perspective about what happened on board the train.

"The government does do a credible job at portraying what took place during 10 or 11 seconds of an incident on a certain day," Scholl said in court. " actions start off on the train very differently than they're portrayed in the state's memo or in the way they've been portrayed outside of court."

Scholl argued Christian should be granted the opportunity to seek release from jail while awaiting trial, in part, because the government failed to prove Christian's intent was to harm or kill.

He also referenced a mental health evaluation of Christian. Scholl said it was important for providing context when viewing video evidence of the attacks.

"Video footage can't be evaluated just in a vacuum, even if you have a whole movie in front of you," Scholl argued.

Christian has been charged with two counts of aggravated murder, attempted murder, multiple counts of an unlawful use of a weapon, and multiple counts of intimidation in the second degree.

Prosecutors said Christian’s intent was clear: to stab and kill people on the MAX train.

"I believe that his admissions speak loudly," Deputy District Attorney Ryan Lufkin said toward the end of the two-hour hearing. "I cannot think of too many additional ways you could probe more deeply into the defendant's intent than his own statements about what he did, why he did it, and his desired outcome for those actions."

During the hearing, prosecutors presented evidence that Christian expressed "glee" that people were injured and that he hoped his victims would die.

In court filings, Lufkin wrote that after Christian was arrested, he made remarks acknowledging what he did and said was "happy now."

Albrecht delayed a ruling in the case Wednesday because she needed to review additional evidence that was discussed but not presented in court.

The evidence in question deals with Christian’s mental health, but also with a graphic video of the killings that the defense said didn’t need to be shown in court. Scholl argued the video should be kept out of the courtroom because of the nature of a bail hearing and because victims and their family members were present.

Witnesses have said Christian was making racist statements to two African-American girls on the train before the attacks took place.

But Scholl said during the bail hearing that video will show Christian was not yelling at the girls, one of whom was wearing hijab.

"When you look at the video you'll see that most of the time it would be difficult for him to even see them based on where they are sitting and the number of people that are in between the place he is sitting and the place they are," Scholl said.

In defending Christian, Scholl referenced a mental health evaluation preformed by Dr. Mark Cunningham, though full details of that examination were not released publicly.

Scholl said the doctor found "Mr. Christian was quite opinionated on a variety of topics, but these have not included espousing white supremacy or racism in any form."

Rather, Scholl said the doctor found Christian's "only sense of superiority is a self-perception that he recognizes fallacies, conspiracies and hypocrisies that others do not."

Using video stills taken from TriMet cameras on the train car, Lufkin spent nearly an hour walking Portland Police homicide Detective Michele Michaels through a brutal account of the events that lead to deaths of Taliesin Namkai-Meche and Ricky Best.

Michaels said Christian stabbed his knife 11 times in 11 seconds, hitting three men in the neck.

Lufkin stressed the point.

"Just to be clear, this entire attack leaving two people dead and the third stabbed in the neck and severely wounded lasted 11 seconds and resulted in 11 stab wounds to his victims?"

"Yes, sir," Michaels responded.

"Were you able to see in the video how accurate Mr. Christian was in being able to land the stabs that he was attempting to use?" Lufkin asked.

"Yes, from the video and the result," Michaels replied. "Each blow that he had, he was in the head area — it was in the head, neck, left area. He stayed in that area with each person."

During his closing argument, Lufkin said the location of the stab wounds was further proof Christian intended to cause harm.

"They were not glancing blows, or blows to the legs or things of that nature where intent may be more questionable about whether or not the defendant intended to cause death," Lufkin said. "These were blows to the head and neck."

Christian also allegedly stabbed Portland State University student Micah Fletcher, who survived the attack. He was in the courtroom Wednesday along with other victims and their families. Fletcher held a supporter nearly the entire hearing; a long red scar along the left side of his neck.

At one point, during Michaels’ description of the stabbings, Fletcher looked up and appeared to glare at Christian. He then stood up and walked out of the courtroom. Fletcher later returned.

At times emotions ran raw. Quiet cries rose up around the courtroom as Michaels spoke.

During the hearing, Christian’s defense team sought to frame their client as a troubled man who failed to become a functional adult and felt marginalized by being classified as an ex-convict.

Christian spent eight years in prison, including time in solitary confinement, Scholl said.

Scholl said his client has conspiratorial beliefs surrounding circumcision, not paying taxes and has an intense focus on free speech. He said Christian suffers from anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder and has a deep interest in comic books.

"His association with these comic books helped him in his failure to establish what you or I would refer to as a functioning adulthood, at least by societal standards," Scholl said.

Albrecht has set another hearing Dec. 15 to discuss pending issues in the case.

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