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Prosecutors Want Jeremy Christian Jury To Visit Scene Of Crime

<p>Jeremy Christian listens during a hearing in a Multnomah County courtroom in Portland, Ore., on Friday, May 3, 2019. Christian was in court seeking a delay in the beginning of his trial while the state considers changes to its death penalty law.</p>

Laurie Isola

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Jeremy Christian listens during a hearing in a Multnomah County courtroom in Portland, Ore., on Friday, May 3, 2019. Christian was in court seeking a delay in the beginning of his trial while the state considers changes to its death penalty law.

The trial of Jeremy Christian, the man behind a 2017 MAX train attack that left two dead, is set to begin next month.

Before it does, prosecutors want to make sure the jury has access to two things: the inside of the train car where the killings took place, and a cell phone video capturing a racist rant made by Christian on May 25, 2017 — the day before the MAX train attack.

On Monday afternoon, prosecutors for the Multnomah County District Attorney’s office went in front of county circuit court Judge Cheryl Albrecht and argued that the yet-to-be-picked jury should be able to visit Car 415. They say the trip would give the jury “a unique and accessible view of the crime scene” and allow them to better understand the testimony from passengers who witnessed the stabbings.

According to the motion, TriMet has agreed to set aside the car. If Judge Albrecht allows it, the county’s sheriff’s office would escort the jury to the bus, where a simple viewing of the outside and inside of the car would take place. There would be no questioning, discussion or “evidentiary display” by the prosecution or defense.

But Christian’s defense team is fighting the trip, arguing it’ll amount to “some kind of funerary procession” without providing the jury with any facts they couldn’t gain through photographs or testimony.

“A quiet walk through a quarantined car does not serve any purpose aside from the weirdness and inherent emotions that are expected to come along with that kind of jury view,” said Christian’s defense attorney, Gregory Scholl.

If Judge Albrecht does decide to allow it, the defense has one request: “If there’s going to be a jury view, then we would like to attend that,” said Scholl, speaking for both him and Christian, who sat to his right. 

Christian remained silent through the hearing with none of the courtroom outbursts for which he has gained a reputation

The second piece of evidence the prosecution wants in front of jurors is a cellphone video recorded by a TriMet passenger. It allegedly caught Christian aboard a Blue Line MAX train making derogatory comments about Jews, Christians and Muslims and threatening to stab the train operator. That footage, which Judge Albrecht stepped out mid-hearing to watch, was allegedly recorded 16 hours before the fatal stabbings.

The prosecution said it was important that a future jury get to see the cellphone video, as it shows the fatal train stabbings were not spontaneous, but something Christian was contemplating out loud just a day prior. 

“Talking about stabbing people 16 hours before you stab people is incredibly strong evidence of intent,” said Jeff Howes, first assistant to the district attorney. 

Judge Albrecht said she planned to make a decision Jan. 6 on whether to allow the jury to visit the MAX car and review the cellphone footage. She said she also plans to hear arguments on whether to allow Christian to attend the potential train viewing.

Copyright 2019 Oregon Public Broadcasting

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Rebecca Ellis is a reporter with Oregon Public Broadcasting. Before joining OPB, she was a Kroc Fellow at NPR, filing stories for the National Desk in Washington D.C. and reporting from Salt Lake City.