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Judge In TriMet Murder Trial Refuses To Drop Charges

<p>Day eight of the Jeremy Christian trial in Portland, February 6, 2020.</p>

Dave Killen

Day eight of the Jeremy Christian trial in Portland, February 6, 2020.

The judge presiding in the TriMet murder trial denied various motions from defense attorneys Friday looking to drop and lessen some initial charges for Jeremy Christian.

Christian is accused of stabbing and killing two people and injuring a third on a MAX light rail train in Portland in 2017.

Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Cheryl Albrecht denied four motions from Christian’s attorneys.

The defense attorneys were attempting to get Christian’s two counts of murder in the first degree dropped due to what they deemed to be incorrect grammar in the prosecution’s indictment.

The judge also denied a similar motion looking to drop Christian’s charge of attempted first-degree murder.

Christian’s defense team also asked the judge to consider dropping two counts of intimidation in the second degree regarding Walia Mohamed and Destinee Mangum, two black teenage girls toward whom some witnesses said Christian was directing a racist rant the day of the stabbings.

Mohamed is Muslim and was wearing a hijab.

“Among the comments witnesses heard were, ‘Go back to Saudi Arabia,’ ‘Fuck Muslims,’ that Muslims should ‘kill themselves…’” the judge’s denial order reads. “Ms. Mangum testified that it felt to her like he was saying they (she and Ms. Mohamed) deserved to die and said it looked like he wanted to hurt someone and wanted to start an altercation.”

The judge continued: “Although the threats were mostly focused on Muslims, there were other racist slurs used and it was equally reasonable for Ms. Mangum to be fearful since she was directly associated with Ms. Mohamed.”

She concluded with saying the prosecution had submitted enough evidence for the intimidation charges.

Lastly, the defense asked the judge to drop two charges Christian is facing regarding Demetria Hester, a black woman he is accused of assaulting on another MAX train the night before the stabbings.

Footage from inside the train and on the platform, along with witness testimony, showed Christian on a similar rant. Hester had told Christian to “shut up,” and throughout her train ride, she said, Christian continuously threatened her.

When exiting the train, Hester sprayed Christian with mace and Christian threw a 32-ounce Gatorade bottle, half-full of wine, at Hester’s eye, causing immediate bruising and ongoing issues with her vision, she said.

Christian’s defense team asked the judge to consider dropping assault in the second degree and unlawful use of a weapon from Christian’s charges.

One of Christian’s attorneys, Greg Scholl argued Thursday: “The instrument at issue here, a Gatorade bottle half-full of fluid, is not likely to cause serious physical injury in the manner that it was used. Secondly, and more importantly, there is no evidence that Mr. Christian knew it was a dangerous weapon in the way that it was used.”

“Testimony introduced at trial was that Mr. Christian threw a 32 ounce Gatorade bottle with liquid in it like a baseball and hit Ms. Hester squarely in the eye. Her eye immediately swelled up and photographs show she had a severe black eye,” Judge Albrecht wrote. “He threw the bottle in conjunction with statements that he would ‘fuck’ Ms. Hester up, telling her, ‘Fuck you bitch. I will kill you,’ and ‘You’re about to get it now, bitch.’”

Albrecht said in her order that those statements and other testimony have established that the Gatorade bottle was “readily capable of causing serious physical injury.”

Copyright 2020 Oregon Public Broadcasting

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.