PORTLAND, Ore. (Portland Tribune) — Jeremy Christian, accused of murdering two men and wounding another in the high-profile TriMet stabbings case of 2017, told a judge Tuesday that he won’t wear civilian clothes even if jail clothing might prejudice a jury against him.
“That would be lying to the jury,” he said, saying he didn’t want to perpetuate a case that he called a “theater of the absurd.”
Christian’s comments came as jury selection began in the trial, which is expected to begin Jan. 28 and to last four weeks or more.
Christian, continuing in a tradition of courtroom outbursts that has spanned two years, told Multnomah Circuit Judge Cheryl Albrecht that he understood how jail clothing might influence a jury, and asserted that he’d been held in violation of of his 8th Amendment right, referring to the constitutional provision barring excessive bail or punishment.
“I don’t care how much time” he spends in prison or if he is found guilty, he added.
“All I care is that the public gets to see and hear what happened on the train,” he said, adding that he didn’t break state law.
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Christian has been charged with a dozen alleged crimes including first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, and several other counts including assault, intimidation, menacing and unlawful use of a weapon, most of them related to the stabbings that ended in the deaths of Taliesin Namkai-Meche and Ricky Best and nearly killed Micah Fletcher.
The killings drew national attention due to witnesses’ statements that Christian had been saying racist and hateful things toward two girls in the same rail car — one African-American and the other a Somali immigrant who wore a hijab — then killed or wounded three men who confronted him.
During the remainder of jury selection, Christian was largely silent as the defense and prosecution asked questions of seven prospective jurors concerning their backgrounds, beliefs and whether they could fairly and impartially shed light on the case. The jurors were assigned numbers so that their names could be kept confidential.
The questions asked of them in court potentially shed light on the arguments to come, as Christian’s defense lawyer, Greg Scholl, and the prosecutor, Don Rees, asked jurors about their beliefs regarding free speech.
Scholl asked one young woman if she believed freedom of speech is such an important thing that she would fight for it, such as resisting if a foreign invader trying to take her rights away.
“Oh yes,” she said.
Other questions were more basic. One prospective juror turned out to have encountered Micah Fletcher, while another worked in a large office setting with a witness in the case. Both assured the lawyers that it would not affect their ability to be a juror.
Scholl asked the judge to excuse one candidate, a young man who had seen media coverage indicating Christian is a racist, which he confessed on a jury questionnaire would affect his ability to be fair, saying he would not be a good juror on the case.
“I’ve been called racial slurs a lot of my life,” he told Scholl. “It makes me feel upset about it.”
After he left the room, Scholl asked the judge to excuse the potential juror based on his bias.
Rees did not oppose the motion, and Albrecht granted the request while noting that the juror had given a deep sigh before responding on whether he could be fair, saying “It would be difficult for me.”
The jurors all reentered the room and took their seats, and Albrecht told the juror he would be excused.
“Thank you,” he said.
Jury selection will continue and could last several days.
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