Jury selection starts today for the upcoming trial of Jeremy Christian, an avowed white supremacist who has been charged with fatally stabbing two people and severely injuring another on the MAX in May 2017. The month-long trial, which begins February 28, will undoubtedly be a long and emotional affair, since it dovetails with a lot of issues currently plaguing America—racism, nationalism, Trumpism, mental illness, religion, and more.
For those unfamiliar with the 2017 attack that emotionally rocked Portland—or are just unsure about the sequence of events that preceded the trial—here's a recap of what led up to, and followed, this horrifying crime.
A month before the fatal incident, in April 2017, Christian was photographed by the Mercury at a "March for Free Speech" hosted by Joey Gibson's Patriot Prayer, where Christian wore an American flag, carried a baseball bat, and screamed racial slurs. From our story at the time:
A few Portland police officers on April 29 appeared to be familiar with Christian, but not threatened by him. They claimed he had a head injury and was mentally ill.
Two days before the fatal incident, Christian was witnessed making racist remarks on a MAX Yellow Line train and threw a water bottle at the face of a woman who confronted him. Police say they didn't have enough evidence to detain Christian at the time. Christian went on to board another MAX train and record himself making more racist threats.
That brings us to Friday, May 26, 2017: According to court documents, Christian was first spotted drinking Sangria and walking toward the MAX Green Line train at the Rose Quarter around 4 pm. After boarding, he immediately approached two Black women, one of whom was wearing traditional Muslim garb. According to witness reports, Christian began screaming at the women to "go home," to "pay taxes," and "I don't care if you are ISIS." A surviving victim of the attack, Micah Fletcher, told authorities that "Mr. Christian was yelling racial and religious epithets and threatened to decapitate people, thereby causing serious physical harm."
That's when the attack began.
According to the report, Christian made a sudden movement at 23-year-old Taliesin Namkai-Meche, threatening "Oh, do something, bitch." When Namkai-Meche attempted to intervene on the women's behalf, Fletcher also stood up and was shoved by Christian, who then pulled out a folding knife. From our reporting:
Christian swung, stabbing Fletcher in the neck, the document says. Immediately afterward he turned to Namkai-Meche, slashing the knife at him repeatedly.
When Ricky Best, 53, the third victim of the attack, stepped up to intervene, prosecutors stay he was stabbed too. Christian allegedly pushed Best back, then stabbed both him and Namkai-Meche again.
Christian then reportedly got off the train at the Hollywood/NE 42nd Ave Transit Center, and was quickly apprehended by police—though not before he threw his knife at the cops. In the back of the squad car, Christian was overheard by police saying the following:
"I'm all good. I stabbed two motherfuckers in the neck and I'm happy now. I'm happy now. I can rest easy."
"Think I stab motherfuckers in the neck for fun? Oh yeah, you're right I do. I'm a patriot."
"I told him, 'You ain't gonna heal, punk.' And he still wants to put hands on me. Die bitch. Fucking die.... That's what liberalism gets you."
Best and Namkai-Meche died from their wounds. Fletcher barely survived, and says his jaw was broken by Christian's attack.
It was a chaotic scene at Christian's arraignment on May 30, 2017. From the Mercury's coverage:
"Free speech or die, Portland," yelled Christian, 35, staring down an audience that included Micah Fletcher, whom police say Christian stabbed in the neck on a MAX Green Line train on Friday. "You’ve got no safe place. This is America. Get out if you don’t like free speech."
A short time later he yelled: "Death to the enemies of America. Death to antifa [anti-fascists]. You call it terrorism. I call it patriotism. Die."
Christian certainly had his defenders, such as this guy who showed up at Christian's arraignment:
Here's what another Christian fan, Jay Bishop—who was arrested at an October 2017 Patriot Prayer rally for having a knife and a gun at Terry D. Schrunk Plaza, a federal park—had to say in a video interview with freelance journalist Mike Bivins:
"He rightfully defended himself," Bishop says about [Christian]. "This person was illegally arrested for self defense and I'm here to tell all these socialists the truth of the matter.... These three that died or were stabbed are not heroes, they're not anybody to be idolized, and they deserve everything that they got."
Christian is now awaiting trial on 17 charges, including two counts of aggravated murder. In November, Multnomah County Judge Cheryl Albrecht ruled that, according to a new state rule, Christian's crime did not qualify for a death sentence.
In his his pre-trial hearings , Christian's lawyers and the prosecution have repeatedly argued over what evidence the jury should be allowed to see. In October, Christian’s defense team asked Albrecht to 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.
The judge denied Scholl's request.
At a December pre-trial hearing, attorneys with the Multnomah County District Attorney's Office requested Albrecht's permission to allow jurors to tour the MAX car where the killings took place. They were (basically) successful: Albrecht has allowed jurors to visit a replica MAX car at TriMet's headquarters.
Prosecutors are still waiting to hear if another piece of evidence will be allowed in trial: A cell phone video taken of Christian during his first racist encounter on the MAX, two days before the the alleged murders. From the Mercury story on this new piece of evidence:
According to county prosecutors, [MAX passenger Karissa] Krall began filming Christian with her cell phone camera after he began rattling off racist threats.
While prosecutors didn't play the video in the courtroom, court documents allege that Krall's video captures Christian saying: "Punk-ass bitches. Moving into my fucking hometown. Telling me what I can and cannot say on the motherfucking Yellow Line and then you want to mace me. Fuck you hoes."
Christian allegedly went on to threaten the MAX driver, saying, "I'll stab you too, bitch... fuck you. I'm about to stab some motherfuckers. Call the police. I dare you. Let's do this shit."
According to Multnomah County prosecutor Jeff Howes, this video shows strong evidence of Christian's criminal intent just 16 hours before the fatal attack.
Albrecht has yet to rule on lawyers' request to show this video to the jury.
Christian's trial is scheduled to begin next week and last a month. Stay with the Mercury for further developments.