PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The prosecution rests.
After 7 days of testimony from witnesses, investigators, forensic evidence collectors and family, the state rested its case in the murder trial of Jeremy Christian, the accused killer of 2 people on a MAX Green Line in 2017.
The final day of the prosecution’s presentation was also the final day for one of the jurors, who was excused because of hardship. One of the 2 alternate jurors will move into that spot.
Prosecutors wrapped up their case with brief testimony from family of the victims — the son of Ricky Best, Erik, and Taliesin Namkai-Meche’s sister, Vajra QuanYin Alaya-Maitreya.
Witness testimony won’t be held again until Monday, when the defense will begin to present its case.
Homicide detective on the stand
The MAX attack on May 26, 2017 happened “incredibly fast” and one of the victims “was defenseless,” a Portland police homicide detective told jurors in the Jeremy Christian murder trial.
Christian, 37, is accused of killing Ricky Best and Taliesin Namkai-Meche and critically wounding Micah Fletcher on the Green Line train as it arrived at the Hollywood Transit Center.
Throughout the trial, the prosecution has shown videos of the attack from various angles — passengers’ cell phone videos, TriMet surveillance in and out of the train. Prosecutors also showed a few video timelines of the incident on the train.
On Wednesday, the courtroom was silent for about 16 minutes as jurors and victims’ family members watched a third video timeline, sequenced beginning when key players boarded the train and ending after the stabbing.
The videos are hard to watch. At least one victim’s family member was visibly upset.
During detailed testimony from PPB Detective Michele Michaels, Christian was seen shaking his head and laughing. Prosecutor Don Rees noted it to Judge Cheryl Albrecht. Christian began to respond, but his attorney put a hand on his shoulder and he remained quiet.
The murder weapon
The murder weapon used in the 2017 MAX attack was unveiled in court during the Jeremy Christian trial by a Portland police detective who carefully unboxed and unwrapped the knife in front of the jurors.
On Tuesday, jurors saw the backpack, newspaper, three books, wine bag and knife confiscated at the scene of Christian’s arrest. Journalists were not allowed to report this information until Wednesday though when Michaels concluded her testimony.
Called to the scene
Just after she had gotten home Friday, May 26, 2017, Michaels was called to the MAX platform. She described seeing a lot of blood inside and items left behind by the people on the train. Michaels and her colleagues were dealing with a lot of witnesses, interviewing them and trying to obtain cell phone video.
They learned Fletcher was awake and able to talk with them at the hospital, so around 8:30 p.m. that night they met with him.
During cross examination of Fletcher, the defense said that in his statement to Michaels, Fletcher said his actions were, admittedly, not the best way to de-escalate a situation. Fletcher responded he didn’t remember the whole statement because “I was on morphine in a hospital.”
Later Tuesday, prosecutors pointed out that, at the time Fletcher gave his initial statement, he had “recently been stabbed in the neck.”
“And recently pumped full of drugs, yes,” Fletcher answered.
Prosecutor Howes said it probably wasn’t the best time to get an accurate response.
“Arguably the worst,” Fletcher responded, prompting lots of laughter in the court room.
Interviewing Micah Fletcher
In her testimony, though, Michaels said Fletcher was awake and coherent. She said she knew he had been medicated, but that he was communicative, displayed good sentence structure, and was very clear in what he was saying.
Shortly after that, Michaels showed jurors the evidence she brought with her, seized at the location where the suspect was arrested.
She unsealed bags and, using gloves, first took out the blue, lightweight backpack. At the scene, there had been a newspaper sticking out of the bag. Michaels also showed the jurors the three books they found: The Book of Mormon, “Sagas of Icelanders,” and “The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick.”
Michaels then showed jurors a bag of wine and, finally, the knife prosecutors say Christian used to commit the murders.
The courtroom was silent as she unwrapped it and held it up for jurors to see. She said the blade is around 3.5 inches with a little bit of serration and a very sharp tip. Michaels also said it opens easily with just a push, and has what appears to be blood on it.
Interviewing Jeremy Christian
Michaels had a long night that night. She told the court she also spoke to Jeremy Christian around 11 p.m. while he was in a temporary holding cell. She said he was yelling and kicked the cell door.
After a bit, she said she got him to sit down so they could talk. Before she had a chance to read him his Miranda rights, Michaels said Christian complained about his handcuffs. She said she told him that they were necessary since he had exhibited violent behavior.
“He said, ‘What do you think when somebody assaults me on the MAX, they get stabbed in the fu–ing neck. You don’t fu–ing touch me … I’m a patriot. OK? You put your hands on me, you abridge my freedom of movement, you assault me, you die. Okay? That’s called America … I’ve got freedom of speech. I’ve got freedom of movement. My arm goes in their neck. … I hope they died. I get manslaughter, OK? Fu– you, fu– me, they die. Oops sorry. I bet that kid’s wishing he hadn’t touched me now … oh he fu–ed up. Oh he fu–ed up.”
Michaels said she continued attempting to walk Christian through his Miranda rights, but that he interrupted after every right saying things like, “I know I have the right to remain silent.”
Michaels also asked him about the incident the night before involving Demetria Hester. By that point, she had heard from TriMet officers that there was video of that altercation.
Prosecutors played a video showing Christian talking about that incident. Michaels said she had just told him she had seen the Rose Quarter video when Christian said, “Oh yeah. When that b—-h Maced me.”
The video appears to depict Christian saying he got Maced because he speaks his mind. He also appears to mention “faceless Antifas” and fascists before saying the Mace didn’t hurt him because he’s been Maced before.
“I thought it was funny.”
“I woulda stabbed her, if I coulda seen,” Christian said. “… believe me if that fu–ing fare inspector wasn’t around, yeah, believe me… You Mace me you’re gonna get stabbed too. That’s assault. That’s assault.”
Still frames from the attack explained
Back on the stand Wednesday morning, Michaels reviewed still frames depicting the stabbings: the first stab to Namkai-Meche was to the throat, resulting in severe and immediate bleeding (The medical examiner’s testimony earlier said this was the wound that killed him.)
Michaels also noted that, immediately before being stabbed, Ricky Best was standing with one arm holding the train’s stability bar and the other hanging at his side.
Later photos revealed Namkai-Meche was holding a container of food in one hand and his cell phone (which he had picked up) in his other hand the entire time. Michaels said that indicates that he did not try to defend himself.
“He was defenseless,” she said.
What happened in court on Tuesday
On Tuesday, the only survivor of the MAX train attack took the stand to tell his story. Micah Fletcher described the day on the train back in May 2017 when Christian is accused of killing Taliesin Namkai-Meche and Ricky Best.
During a verbal exchange, video showed Fletcher pushed Christian down twice. The second time Christian got up and said, “Hit me again,” Fletcher did.
“He responded by stabbing me in the throat,” Fletcher said. Fletcher said thought he had been punched originally, then he realized he was bleeding.
Fletcher remembered a man using his bare hand, then a jacket and a blanket, to try to stop the bleeding. He also remembers calling his mom, thinking that these were going to be his last moments.
Despite his deliberate tone while testifying, there were emotional moments as Fletcher described the lasting impacts that day left him with. A section of his jawbone had been broken. He went through two months of physical therapy. He testified that he was left with some nerve damage in his neck that sometimes made it difficult to eat. At one point, he said that there hasn’t a day that has gone by where he doesn’t think about that day on the MAX.
THE CHARGES AND THE TRIAL
The trial started January 28 at the Multnomah County Courthouse. Witnesses have provided painful first-hand accounts of what happened on the Green Line train at the Hollywood Transit Center on May 26, 2017.
Jeremy Christian is accused of killing Taliesin Namkai-Meche and Ricky Best and nearly killing Micah Fletcher that day on the train. He has pleaded not guilty to 12 charges: two counts of first-degree murder, one count of first-degree attempted murder, one count of first-degree assault, one count of second-degree assault, three counts of second-degree intimidation, two counts of unlawful use of a weapon and two counts of menacing.
Digital reporter Hannah Ray Lambert covers the Jeremy Christian trial for KOIN 6 News and KOIN.com. Follow her on Twitter for constantly-updated, minute-by-minute breakdown of the testimony.
KOIN 6 News will be in the courtroom each day
and provide updates throughout the case