Attorneys have begun laying the ground rules for the eventual trial of Jeremy Christian, the 36-year-old man accused of fatally stabbing two men in the neck, and seriously injuring another, on a MAX train.
Christian allegedly attacked Ricky Best, Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche, and Micah Fletcher after they attempted to stop Christian from hurling anti-Muslim rhetoric at two African American girls riding the MAX in May 2017. Best and Namkai-Meche died from the attack, while Fletcher spent several days in the hospital healing from a life-threatening neck gash. Christian faces 17 charges, including two counts of aggravated murder.
Yesterday morning, Christian joined his defense lawyers and state prosecutors in Multnomah County Judge Cheryl Albrecht’s courtroom to kick off three days of pre-trial hearings, where attorneys will debate how much information the 12-person jury should be allowed access to during Christian’s June 2019 trial. Christian’s defense team has filed dozens of pretrial motions with a common goal to keep the jury from becoming too emotionally distraught during the trial.
Christian sat silently throughout the morning’s hearing—a contrast to his past appearances in court which have been punctuated with startling outbursts. Family and friends of Namkai-Meche sat a few rows behind Christian, quietly wiping away tears.
Greg Scholl, Christian’s defense attorney, began the hearing by asking Albrecht to limit the number of photos or videos the prosecution can share with the jury that contain “graphic” images of victims’ injuries.
“We want to be on guard against showing too many photos... that give an unfair advantage to the prosecution,” said Scholl.
Ryan Lufkin, a deputy district attorney, countered that while footage from cell phone videos and TriMet surrviellance videos of the incident can be defined as “graphic,” they depict the alleged crimes that sent Christian to court in the first place. Denying the jury access to those videos would go directly against the trial’s purpose, Lufkin argued.
Judge Albrecht denied Scholl’s request. She also denied Scholl’s motion to keep the jury from seeing any family or friends of Christian’s victims in the courthouse halls. Scholl said he was concerned jurors might be impacted by their visible grief. But, according to Albrecht, it’s inevitable that victims’ families come in contact with jurors outside the courtroom, and it’s not the court’s responsibility to separate the two in public spaces.
This week’s hearings will likely determine whether or not Christian could face the death penalty. Scholl has filed a number of motions hoping to keep the option entirely off the table, or at least limit the likelihood of the jury sentencing his client to death. In court this morning, Scholl argued that the prosecution may unfairly try to dismiss jurors who don’t believe in the death penalty during jury selection.
While Oregon governors John Kitzhaber and Kate Brown have upheld a moratorium on the death penalty in the state since 2011, Republican gubernatorial candidate Knute Buehler has said he’d reintroduce executions if elected.
Albrecht is expected to consider more than 50 motions from prosecution and defense attorneys by Wednesday evening.