PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The sentencing phase of Jeremy Christian’s MAX attack trial begins Tuesday morning in Judge Cheryl Albrecht’s courtroom, with the defense claiming he cannot be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.
New evidence was also presented to the jury that they weren’t able to see during the trial. This new evidence — a redacted phone call and memorabilia Christian tried to sell — was presented for the jury to determine sentencing factors.
Christian, 37, was unanimously convicted on all 12 charges he faced, including 2 first-degree murder charges. The hearing will discuss possible enhancements to the sentences he’ll receive.
He faces a maximum of life in prison without parole. In late October 2019, prosecutors filed a motion that took the death penalty off the table.
The jury that convicted Christian after about 12 hours of deliberation will be in court for this 2-day hearing. Their role will be to be determine whether or not the state has proven the enhancement facts, which is a “fact that is constitutionally required to be found by a jury in order to increase the sentence that may be imposed upon conviction of a crime,” according to Oregon law.
The State intends to ask them to make findings on the following sentencing factors:
- That there is a high probability that the defendant cannot be rehabilitated.
- That the defendant’s crimes were precipitated by his unreasonable racial and religious bias.
- That the defendant demonstrated no remorse for his acts.
- That the defendant’s acts demonstrated his callous disregard for the value of human life.
- That the defendant is likely to commit future acts of violence.
- That defendant was at least 18 years of age at the time the murders were committed.
Defense lawyers filed a motion relating to the recent changes to Oregon’s aggravated murder law. They said the new law does not allow Christian to receive a “true life” sentence, meaning he would be eligible for parole after 30 years. Prosecutors and the judge agreed to save that issue for a later date since the jury is on a timeline.
Four witnesses testify in sentencing hearing
The prosecution called 4 witnesses Tuesday afternoon, and introduced evidence the jury had previously only heard a redacted version: a jailhouse phone call in which Christian appears to mock Micah Fletcher’s appearance approximately two years after the stabbing.
Christopher Whitlow was Christian’s probation officer after his earlier convictions. He first met with him in April 2011 and made notes they would need to “continue discussing his pro-criminal, pro-violence belief system.” Whitlow said Christian blamed the store clerk he robbed for what happened, saying “it was the victim’s fault for disrespecting him and accusing him of something he didn’t do.”
Next, Multnomah County corrections deputy Ivan Lopez-Mendoza read a note he made on May 29, 2017 that inmate Jeremy Christian was yelling that he was a true Viking and patriot and that “anyone who did not believe in freedom would be killed.” The MAX stabbing had just happened 3 days prior.
The third man called to the stand was corrections deputy Ryan Cook. He wrote Christian up on June 1, 2017 for yelling obscenities and causing a disruption in the cell block. Cook didn’t want to repeat the obscenities he wrote in his report, but he said Christian referred to an African-American sergeant as the “N-word.”
Murder memorabilia sites
The fourth and final witness called Tuesday afternoon was Steve Ober with the Multnomah County District Attorney’s office. He testified in the State’s main case and was called back to testify about items Christian is accused of trying to sell on murder memorabilia websites.
Prosecutors showed jurors a letter they said Christian wrote to a friend in June 2017, asking them to sell a Jehovah’s Witness book Christian had given to the owner of a website called Murder Auction. Ober said he couldn’t find any evidence the book appeared on the website.
However, two documents allegedly written by Christian appeared on another site, Murder Museum. Ober said the owner of that site, CC Manded, wrote to Christian trying to get the inmate to be a pen pal.
The first letter to appear on Murder Museum was dated September 25, 2019. Ober said Christian wrote “the death sentence is officially off the table” in that letter. It was listed for $250 on the website and $175 on Facebook.
Then on February 13 — just 8 days before Christian was convicted — a second document allegedly from Christian popped up on the Facebook page. It’s a print out of an Oregon Public Broadcasting article about the previous letter being for sale. The article features a handwritten note on it saying in part, “lie lie lie lie.”
To the best of Ober’s knowledge, both documents are still for sale.
The prosecution also introduced a letter written by Christian in July 2017 that read in part, “I did not threaten any little girls or Muslims and only defended myself after I was attacked. It’s too bad that people died but that’s what violence leads to. I didn’t cast the first stone, just the last.”
Finally, they played the previously-redacted phone call in which Christian appeared to mock Micah Fletcher.
It was originally redacted on grounds that it showed lack of remorse. Now, since the jury is specifically being asked to consider lack of remorse as a possible sentence enhancement factor, Judge Cheryl Albrecht said she would allow the unredacted call.
Prosecutors have one more witness they plan to call Wednesday, then the defense will present their sentencing case.
The defense plans to have at least one expert testify Wednesday morning. Attorney Greg Scholl said they also have some deputies from the sheriff’s office and detention center subpoenaed.
Both sides briefly discussed possible sentencing dates, eyeing late March. However, they will have to sort out conflicting schedules, so no date has been officially set.
The jury will not make a recommendation on sentencing. Judge Albrecht will impose the prison sentence for Jeremy Christian.
On May 26, 2017, Christian killed Taliesin Namkai-Meche and Ricky Best and critically wounded Micah Fletcher in an attack on a MAX Green Line as it pulled into the Hollywood Transit Center.
His trial began January 28, 2020 and he was convicted February 21, 2020.