Portland MAX Stabbing Victims Testify During Sentencing Hearing
“I blame the system for creating and facilitating people like Jeremy (Christian),” Demetria Hester said in court.
Only about a half-hour into his sentencing hearing Tuesday, Jeremy Christian was escorted out of the courtroom for an outburst.
Christian was convicted of stabbing and killing two men and injuring a third on a MAX light rail train in Portland in 2017. After a four-week trial earlier this year, a jury found him guilty on 12 counts, including murder and attempted murder, as well as assault and hate crimes.
“I should’ve killed you, bitch,” Christian yelled at Demetria Hester, a Black woman he assaulted a night prior to the MAX stabbings, before being escorted out of the room by Multnomah County Sheriff’s deputies Tuesday.
Hester was one of about 15 people slated to give victim impact statements Tuesday ahead of Christian’s sentencing.
In her statement, Hester recalled the assault as well as the wider implications of white supremacy and violence against people of color.
Christian was convicted of intimidation, or a hate crime, against Hester as well as three Black girls: Destinee Mangum, Walia Mohamed and Zayda Allen.
“I blame the system for creating and facilitating people like Jeremy,” Hester said in court.
“The police captured, not killed, a racist white supremacist known to the police,” she said, referencing Christian. “Police murder us all day, everyday. … We will fight to dismantle this corrupt system.”
“Our community is being victimized over and over again by the system and we are paying for it financially, physically, mentally and emotionally,” Hester said. “There is no help from the mayor, governor, congress, judge.”
Hester also addressed Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Cheryl Albrecht, who has overseen Christian’s trial. She listed examples of Albrecht allowing Christian to remain in the court and make outbursts in the past, as well as scheduling Christian’s trial for a later date than victims’ families members and survivors had requested.
“All of these are examples of absolute abuse of power,” Hester said.
Then, she addressed Christian directly.
“You are a waste of breath and when you die and go to hell, I hope you rot,” she said to him.
“See you there, bitch,” Christian replied, among other statements, as he stood and pulled off his mask to make threats at Hester. Deputies grabbed Christian and removed him from the courtroom.
“He has forfeited his right to remain for the sentencing,” Albrecht said.
Of the other people who gave victim impact statements Tuesday morning, Dijuana Hudson spoke on behalf of her daughter, Mangum — one of the young Black girls Christian intimidated on the MAX train the day of the attack.
“We just want to see justice served,” Hudson said.
She spoke for both Mangum and Magnum’s friend Mohamed, stating they have both been affected by emotional stress.
She said Mangum and Mohamed have both had trouble “engaging with the world.”
Hudson said she wants her daughter and Mohamed to know that “not everyone is like Jeremy Christian. There are more Taliesins and Micahs and Ricky Bests than there are Jeremy Christians.”
Taliesin Namkai-Meche and Ricky Best are the two men Christian murdered in May of 2017. Micah Fletcher is the man Christian attempted to murder.
Burt Best and Erik Best, Ricky Best’s brother and son, respectively, both spoke on his behalf.
“I don’t feel any hatred for Jeremy Christian,” Erik Best said. “Why would you hate a rabid dog? It’s just a force of nature. It just happens.”
He continued: “Though, I do wish that the judge, to the best of her ability, prevents him from ever harming another soul.”
After a midday recess, attorneys and advocates for victims and their family members spoke to the court, requesting that Christian be brought back to hear the remaining victim impact statements.
Albrecht refused to bring Christian back into the room, looking to avoid further outbursts, but said he could be in a separate courtroom to watch and listen to statements from there.
Six of Namkai-Meche’s family members spoke on his behalf, either in-person or remotely, via video.
“Tilly’s death was an enormous blow to our family,” Vajra Alaya-Maitreya, Namkai-Meche’s sister said in court. “We’re still reeling from the loss.”
She continued: “My brother stood up on that train because of his moral compass, because he was taught to be a good ally … If he was alive today, you could bet he would be out protesting every night.”
Alaya-Maitreya urged the judge to sentence Christian to a life sentence without the possibility of parole.
Christian was scheduled to be sentenced Tuesday, but proceedings were delayed due to technical difficulties – mainly Christian being able to view and listen to victim impact statements remotely.
Fletcher, the survivor of the stabbings, is still slated to give his statement.
Proceedings are scheduled to continue Wednesday morning.
Copyright 2020 Oregon Public Broadcasting