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Jury Seated In Trial Of Portland Light Rail Train Killing Suspect

UPDATE (1:36 p.m.) – A jury of 12 men and women has been seated in the trial of Jeremy Christian, the man charged with killing two men on board a Portland light rail train in May 2017. There are two alternate jurors who will also sit through the trial.

Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Cheryl Albrecht said she would call the jurors to let them know they would be serving through the roughly one month long trial.

In addition to seating a jury, prosecutors said in court they were dismissing three felonies charges. All three are unlawful use of a weapon charges and name two of the men who were killed — Taliesin Namkai-Meche and Ricky Best — as well as Micah Fletcher, who was stabbed in the neck.

The charges are essentially redundant because all three men are victims in more serious charges, for example first degree murder and attempted murder. Christian is also facing other felony charges such as assault, as well as misdemeanors like intimidation and menacing.

The stabbings garnered national attention. The trial will look closely at what happened on the train, raising questions about self defense and mental health.

The jurors seated Monday morning come from different walks of life.

More than half are male, and most appear to be white. Many of the jurors appear to be over 50, though a few are likely in their 20s or 30s.

One works in administration at a law firm; at least one is retired; one has worked for more than 20 years as an insurance claims adjuster, and another works for the city of Portland.

To protect their identities, prospective jurors were assigned numbers and letters, like E8 and A25. In addition to a written questionnaire they filled out earlier this month, jurors were interviewed by Christian's defense as well as prosecutors in court.

“I’m a rule-oriented person,” one juror said during jury selection last week. “I’m a fair person. I form my own opinions based on fact and not others’ opinions.”

Another juror spoke about their beliefs about free speech and self defense, two areas attorneys are sure to dive into during the trial.

“I feel that free speech ends where somebody else’s safety begins,” the person said during jury selection. “If you find yourself in physical harm, there may be justification of self defense.”

Another juror said during selection that free speech shouldn’t include violence, and when it comes to self-defense there have to be attempts at deescalation.

“Everyone has the right to stand on the street corner and say what they want to say, and everyone has the right to walk away and not listen to it,” one juror said.

A few of the jurors described themselves as “moderate,” politically and ideologically. And many of the jurors said they had either not heard about the MAX stabbings at all or hadn’t followed any continuing media coverage.  

“When I came in and heard all of the allegations,” one juror said, “I didn’t even know this happened. I didn’t know what case it was. I made a timeline in my head and was like, ‘Oh, it was that.’”

Another juror, who uses public transit daily, said they were living outside of the state at the time of the attack.

“I haven’t feared for my safety, but two times there have been people causing a disturbance,” the juror said.

That juror said they have a habit of reading the newspaper from “cover to cover” and watch the news daily, so they have been following the Christian case to a certain extent. But they said they wouldn’t let that influence them.

“Based on what I heard from the media doesn’t matter if I’m a juror. It’s like an Etch A Sketch: You erase that … Starting from scratch.”

Opening statements are set to begin Tuesday morning.

Copyright 2020 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Conrad Wilson is a reporter and producer covering criminal justice and legal affairs for OPB.
Meerah Powell is a general assignment and breaking news reporter for OPB. She previously worked as a news reporter and podcast producer for Eugene Weekly in her hometown of Eugene, Oregon. Along with writing and audio work, Meerah also has experience with photography and videography. She graduated from the University of Oregon's School of Journalism and Communication.