PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Jeremy Christian will not testify in his own defense at the MAX attack murder trial, he told Judge Cheryl Albrecht in court on Wednesday.
The defense is nearing the end of their witnesses and Judge Albrecht asked if Christian would take the stand. He said no and was reminded it’s an important decision and a big right to relinquish.
The judge asked him if there was any reason that influenced his decision. Christian said that he is worried about what may happen to him in prison if he takes the stand in open court.
Judge Albrecht said he can reverse this decision any time during the 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.
Shortly before court recessed for the day, the defense announced they don’t have any more witnesses, but have not yet rested their case. Closing arguments could begin Tuesday.
Friends of Jeremy Christian
The defense called character witnesses to the stand Wednesday. Marcia Hoy said her son was friends with Christian since they were young. Carrie Self worked with Christian at a pizzeria and wrote letters to him while he was in prison. Crystal Mawson has known Christian for about 18 years and dated him for a short while.
Marcia Hoy said Christian lived with them for about a year when he was around 18. Defense attorney Dean Smith asked if she notice any changes in him before he committed the armed robbery of a convenience store in 2002. She said Christian became more withdrawn, though he was always reserved.
When he went to prison, she said she wasn’t in contact with him. But after he got out he visited about once a month. What she noticed, she testified, is that he hadn’t changed.
“Everybody else grew up and he was still 18,” Hoy said, and he seemed more focused on freedom of speech.
She thinks she last saw Christian about 3 years ago, perhaps a month or two before the MAX attack.
In cross examination, prosecutor Don Rees asked about her relationship with Christian. He said she was like a second mom to him.
“I still am. I won’t abandon him.”
Rees later said her son is still friends with him, too.
“We don’t believe in abandoning people.”
Carrie Self, who described Christian as a “little brother type,” said prison changed him. “He was different, definitely, being in prison for that long. Before he went in prison he was just a goofy kid … When he came out he was a little harder.”
The thing that struck her the most was, “We all grew up and moved on and Jeremy was kind of stuck.”
She noted he did help her move at one point, but again, his personality was harder. She described him as having a chip on his shoulder after prison.
The defense also called Crystal Mawson who worked with and briefly dated Christian. After prison she said, “There was just something about him. He seemed a little more angry. He seemed a little more loud.”
Also different: He liked to talk about freedom of speech after prison..
During cross examination, prosecutor Rees said Mawson called Christian a jokester and also said he could be a little “crazy” when he drank.
She answered, “We all did a little bit of fun.”
Post prison, Rees noted Christian’s crowd had all grown up and moved on. But other than that, he seemed mostly the same. Mawson agreed.
Christian’s use of drugs and alcohol
The defense’s final witness was psychologist Patricia Warford, PhD. She met with Christian four times, gave him tests, and talked with his parents.
Warford spoke in general about developmental adversity and trauma. She said Christian told her he began drinking consistently and smoking pot at 14, experimented with acid & mushrooms around 17, and tried other drugs including cocaine, meth, heroin, spice and several others.
Warford amended one part of her report. Originally, she wrote Christian’s blood alcohol level was around 0.018 after the MAX attack. She later learned the analysis had not been done until about 9 hours later. Using a formula to estimate what it actually would have been at the time of the attack, she reached a BAC of 0.14.
Scholl asked Warford about the results of the tests. She said Christian was “elevated” on some scales like drug abuse, poor control over anger, impaired empathy, thoughts of death and suicide, moodiness, and unsupportive family. Results also showed Christian may perceive a threat where it does not exist.
The defense also asked her to describe what was going on in the days leading up to the MAX attack. She said she learned his father had told him a couple days before they were going to throw away his comic books, his main source of income.
“This was his livelihood,” she said. His parents were ganging up on him. He didn’t have a place to stay, “so his world is imploding.”
She described him as much more impulsive and reactive at this time.
Then the night before the MAX attack was the incident with Demetria Hester on a different MAX train.
On the day of the MAX attack he had been drinking, at least two people got into his personal space, and by the time the stabbing occurred Warford said the limbic system had already been activated and Christian was on auto-pilot.
Cross-examination and re-direct
In cross examination, Rees asked how Warford would diagnose Christian.
She responded “oppositional defiant,” which is usually characterized by individuals being argumentative and deliberately annoying. She did not try to diagnose him as autistic because that is not her area of expertise.
Rees then appeared to target her credentials.
He suggested she specializes in relationship counseling and domestic violence instead of violent stranger-on-stranger attacks. He said nearly all of her dozens of presentations over the years have been related to domestic violence.
When defense attorney Scholl got a chance to redirect the testimony, he asked Warford if she was “embarrassed” by her past presentations. She emphatically answered no, noting the first murder case she lent her expertise to was a domestic violence case and that the same limbic (brain) responses are involved.
In cross examination Rees also brought up Christian’s alleged religious and racist beliefs.
Warford said research has shown the way people behave and what they believe have very little correlation, so it doesn’t offer a full picture. Rees asked about things Christian had read and also referenced in his ranting on the MAX.
The materials included the Vedas (Hindu writings), Celtic mythology, and books about Vikings, all of which Rees claimed are tied to white supremacists and Nazis.
In redirect, the defense asked about Christian’s other statements involving monotheism, Kali Yuga and “Saturn running around in circles.” Warford said that, indeed, Christian’s statements were “rambling” and “all over the place.”
Scholl said that in prison Christian requested all sorts of reading materials and took part in a wide variety of religious services, including a Wiccan circle, Buddhist study group, Seventh Day Adventist services, and more.
Warford said that was all true.
Forensic psychologist back on the stand
A forensic psychologist returned to the witness stand for more cross-examination by prosecutors in the Jeremy Christian MAX attack murder trial.
Dr. Timothy Derning began his testimony on Tuesday and spoke at length about Christian’s autism, dysfunctional family, lack of friends and how prison changed him.
He continued his testimony Wednesday when prosecutor Don Rees asked him how he determined Christian’s father was on the autism spectrum.
Derning said he didn’t give the elder Christian a test or review his record, but said his wife said he has autism and Asperger’s.
Asked if she was a psychologist, Derning said no.
Derning’s diagnosis of autism for Jeremy Christian also was challenged by the prosecutors. He was asked if he was aware Christian joked with his mother that he tried to spoof psychologists by giving answers like “dog” and “food” when asked to identify a musical instrument.
Tuesday defense witnesses
Jurors on Tuesday heard from two psychologists who examined Christian since the MAX attack. Clinical psychologist Dr. Glena Andrews spoke in detail about Christian’s educational background, family life and cognitive abilities. Dr. Timothy Derning spoke at length about Christian’s autism, dysfunctional family, lack of friends and how prison changed him.
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 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 a 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