Jeremy Joseph Christian, the autistic man that stabbed three people during a physical altercation on a Max train in 2017 is appealing his convictions. No court documents have been filed as of yet, but the mainstream press are reporting that he has a new lawyer and that lawyer confirms that he is appealing everything. This announcement comes almost five months after Jeremy received a true life sentence. As I have said before, I know Jeremy personally, followed his trial closely, and am a close student of the law.
What is Jeremy Christian Really Like?
I first met him at FCI Sheridan in late 2013. He had just been sent there for violating conditions of his federal supervision while staying at the Northwest Regional Re-Entry Center (NWRRC). I only recall speaking to him once. It was in the chow hall and I recall him warning me about the NWRRC. He was kicked out just for arguing with a staff member named Tim. The argument was over him being banned for the computers just for looking up stuff about comic books. Tim accused Jeremy of intimidating him during the argument. I was about to go to NWRRC myself, so I found his story very interesting. When I went to NWRRC and met Tim, I realized that Jeremy was probably telling the truth. Tim is the type of flaming gay guy that plays the intimidated victim during and after confrontations. What happened between Jeremy and Tim was most likely an argument in which Jeremy was quite vocal and Tim reacted by crying to his bosses about how intimidated he said he felt. I had a similar experience when I was banned from computers just for referring to someone else as a "bitch" to another inmate while in the computer room. That other person was not associated with NWRRC at all and had no way of knowing what I said, but just for that they took away the only tools available to look for work there. I can't help but think that if NWRRC did more to help people re-integrate into society instead of finding excuses to send them back to prison that Jeremy would have been too busy working to ride the Max drunk that day.
My next encounter with Jeremy was in 2017 after my arm was broken by a jail deputy while I was doing time for violating my federal supervised release conditions. Because deputies accused me of assaulting them in an effort to justify breaking my arm, I was categorized as a security risk and placed in an administrative segregation unit. Administrative segregation units are used for inmates that are considered more dangerous or more vulnerable than other inmates. Jeremy was there because of how high profile his case was and how serious the charges were. Inmates frequently would enter the jail thinking he was a white supremacist that targeted kids, so they would get in his face and would have probably fought him had they not been on separate recreation schedules in administrative segregation. It was then that I started to actually get to know him a little bit. For about three weeks during late July and early August of 2017 I was in the 4C housing unit with him. During that time he talked about his case quite a bit. He talked about how the cell phone video of the incident would show that he was thrown on the ground by Micah Fletcher before responding with his knife. He insisted that he was defending himself and that he just reacted naturally. He felt that he was being prosecuted the way he was for political reasons. At one point I even got him to give me a customer testimonial to use in an affiliate advertisement promoting the type of knife he used (https://copblaster.com/blast/3357/exclusive-jeremy-christian-murder-weapon-customer-testimonial). He didn't have a problem doing that because he felt justified, but also I think it had to do with a manic side to him that uses humor as a coping mechanism. I eventually got into a dispute with a deputy and was sent back to a lockdown unit. After that I was hit with a new charge accusing me of assaulting federal officers and was moved to FDC Sheridan and later the Columbia County Jail as a pretrial detainee.
In August of 2018 I finally received a reasonable plea offer from the feds that allowed me to admit to throwing chips at a guard without admitting to any of the false allegations of punching or kicking them (). At that point I had been banned from the Columbia County Jail, so MCDC was the only local facility contracted with the U.S. Marshals willing to house me. I was transferred to MCDC, entered my plea, and held there until my sentencing hearing. During that time I was housed in the 4B housing unit in a cell next door to Jeremy. Both of those cells had the same recreation schedule so every week Jeremy and I got to go to the basketball court that overlooks Terry Schrunk Plaza for over an hour. We spent most of that time talking and playing horse. I am embarrassed to say that he almost always won, but I did make him miss one day by pointing at the park and saying "is that Antifa?" Back in the until Jeremy and I almost always got out of our cells together for a couple hours a day . During that time I got to know him really well. The man I remember is not the same person I see on the news.
Perhaps the most interesting observation I made of him was that he is not a white supremacist. He is a little racist, but not nearly as racist as any real white supremacist that I've ever done time with. Whenever black guys came to the unit and went off on him, he would explain to them that he is not white supremacist. That is something I've never seen a real white supremacist do in jail. He grew up in a black neighborhood, has black friends, and treats black inmates with respect. There was one case of a black inmate throwing his comics in the toilet and falsely accuse him of assault (), but that was disproven. I stopped by the trial one day and before a recess Jeremy turned to me and said "you're not going to want to miss this stuff." I stayed and for the first time heard the n-word come out of his mouth. It was on video when he was handcuffed in the back of a patrol car. I think he said it because a black cop put the restraints on him bone tight. That does not justify it, but it does provide context to the statement. That is why I have to admit he is a little racist, but for someone that has done as much time as he has, he is surprisingly less racist that I would expect. If he is a white supremacist then he is not like any other white supremacist that I did time with in the feds. I spent over a year in general population at USP Victorville with real Nazis, so I think I can tell the difference.
When I first read Jeremy's psychological evaluation (https://copblaster.com/uploads/files/jeremy-christian-psychological-evaluation.pdf) I knew he was on the spectrum. That evaluation stopped short at giving him an actual diagnosis, but due to my own experience with the spectrum I knew that his traits fit the diagnosis of Asperger's Syndrome (AS). His niche interest in comic books that led him to collect thousands of them is a behavior typical of people with AS. His social deficiencies are also typical of people with AS. I have gotten some flak for saying this because people are quick to point out that violence is not a trait linked to AS. I agree with them, but I also agree with the diagnosis that Jeremy has Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). That combination of AS and PTSD can lead directly to violent responses in emotionally charged situations such as the one on the train. Such responses typically occur before the brain has time to properly process everything that is going on. The mind of a person with AS works differently than a normal one. Some people with AS do really well on IQ tests, but at the same time the tester will typically note that they took the maximum amount of time allowed to answer each question. That is because unlike a normal person whose mind naturally gravitates towards one answer right away, the autistic mind always begins by considering all options before narrowing things down to the correct answer because they are considering all options including ones that a normal person would not consider. If the autistic person is forced to answer a question before they are done considering all options then they will often answer incorrectly. If an autistic person is thrown on the ground repeatedly and forced to answer the question "what do I do now?" Before they can analyze all options they might respond incorrectly and intensely before they have the time they need to form rational intent in the emotionally charged situation. That appears to have been case with Jeremy Christian.
Jeremy's AS makes it much harder for him to manage his PTSD symptoms. His inability to make the correct decision during an emotionally charged situation combined with the "fight or flight" response typically experienced by people with PTSD explains why he reacted more violently than a typical person with AS would probably have. He was predisposed to react violently in the situation that he was in. That is why he is not guilty of murder. An autistic person that reacts suddenly in a situation such as the one Jeremy was in does not act with the culpable state of mind necessary to meet the intent requirements of murder statutes. That does not make him innocent, but it should have been enough to sustain the lesser charge of manslaughter (https://copblaster.com/blast/3397/jeremy-christian-found-guilty-of-manslaughter-should-be-the-verdict).
I was released in late November of 2018 after receiving a sentence of time served for throwing chips in the deputies faces. The week before my release Jeremy had a visit that lasted an entire day. I was not surprised when he said the visitor was an Asperger's specialist. After my release I never had any direct contact with Jeremy, but I did go to his trial a couple times. I wanted to see if the man I lived with for months was telling me the truth and from what I saw at that trial it appears that he was. To this day I have yet to catch him in a lie. Believe me when I say that things would be easier for me if I could say otherwise. I've been called a white supremacist just for defending someone I don't believe to be on just because other people think he is. People think that only a fascist would defend him, but what they don't realize is that the system being used against him is more dangerous than he could ever been. It is important that the system be kept in check and not allowed to be controlled by public opinion.
I am also aware of his outburst such as "death to Antifa," "you call it terrorism I call it patriotism," and yelling "I should have killed you" at Demetria Hester at sentencing. I attribute those to his inability to cope with what is going on in his life. I see it as an effort to gain back some control over something, but I also see it as a somewhat manic freak out. A couple months back I met a woman that rode the Max behind Jeremy one day. She said he was drunk, speaking and arguing with people. She said he seemed manic. She also agreed with my assessment that he is a public troll. Like an internet troll, but someone that trolls people in public as a hobby. Even Judge Albrecht said at sentencing that she did not believe that he boarded the train that day intent on killing anyone. That rules out the white supremacist domestic terrorist theory. The truth is this was just a developmentally disabled man acting inappropriate.
Issues for Appeal
Judge Cheryl Albrecht erroneously allowed the Demetria Hester case to be tried with the Max stabbing case. I still think this jury would have convicted him of all the stabbing charges had they been tried separately, but I don't see how the stabbing case could not have prejudiced the Hester case. The Hester case stemmed from the night before the stabbing. In that incident Jeremy can be seen arguing with Hester on the train. Then they got off the train, Jeremy said something, and began to walk away when Hester attacked him with pepper spray. He then kept walking as she followed with the spray until Jeremy turned around and threw a plastic Gatorade bottle half full of sangria at her eye (https://copblaster.com/blast/3378/demetria-hester-has-a-criminal-record-and-assaulted-jeremy-christian). Hester was called out for publicly lying about what happened, but despite that the jury viewed her as credible (https://copblaster.com/blast/3388/demetria-hester-admits-to-prior-felony-convictions). Jeremy was convicted of Assault II as a hate crime. A reasonable jury would not have reached that conclusion. Most of the evidence introduced to support the claim that Jeremy's actions were racially motivated came from the stabbing case. I did not see any evidence in the Hester case indicating that her being black had anything to do with Jeremy throwing that bottle.
Judge Cheryl Albrecht refused to let the defense change their insanity defense to a diminished capacity defense during the trial (https://copblaster.com/blast/25804/jeremy-christian-sentencing-lwop-fails-to-consider-diminshed-capacity). A person on trial is supposed to have the right to present all possible defenses, not just the defenses their attorneys decide to go with at the beginning of the trial. I always knew that Jeremy's insanity defense was a long shot because his case has always been one of diminished capacity. To prevail with an insanity defense one must show that a defendant was so mentally ill that they could not possibly be responsible for their actions at all. That has never been the case with Jeremy Christian. On the other hand, to prevail with a diminished capacity defense one must show that a defendant's disability prevented him from being able to make the right choice. That has always been the case with Jeremy Christian and he should have had the opportunity to argue that at trial.
Judge Cheryl Albrecht refused Jeremy's change of venue request despite his case being one of the most covered cases in the history of Portland. At the time of his trial the likelihood of finding anyone in Portland over the age of 18 that did not hear of it was slim to none. Sure they found a group of 12 people that filled out a questionnaire (https://copblaster.com/uploads/files/voir-dire-questionnaire-jeremy-christian.pdf), but do you really think they were not influenced by the media at all? It seems like all they cared about was whether or not he is racist. If he is racist find him guilty. That kind of activity exposes a flaw in the system where all a prosecutor must do to lock someone up is get an indictment and let an undesirable trait of theirs be known. The verdict does not fit the evidence and I think a jury someplace else in the state not impacted by the publicity as much would have reached a more reasonable decision.
Ineffective Assistance of Counsel
Jeremy Christian's lawyers made mistakes that prejudice him. The biggest one was choosing to mount an insanity defense instead of a diminished capacity defense. I believe that the failure of his defense team to pursue a diminished capacity defense from the start fell below the level or representation expected of an attorney and as a result Jeremy was prejudiced by denying the jury the option to convict on a lesser charge based on it.
His lawyers also failed to cross exam witnesses with the zealousness necessary in case like his. After Demetria Hester testified I was surprised not to see any mention of Hester's criminal record. I remembered Jeremy telling me something about it, so I did a background check and found out she had prior charges (https://copblaster.com/blast/3379/demetria-hester-has-faced-assault-and-prostitution-charges). Those charges included assault and prostitution. She was not convicted of prostitution, but she was picked up and charged with it. I do not recall Jeremy's lawyers presenting this to the jury. Convicted or not, there is a stigma associated with any woman picked up on a prostitution charge. That stigma of being a prostitute comes with it a common belief that such a person cannot be believed. After all if someone will sell their body for money they probably will do just about anything else. His lawyers should have done all they could to make her look like a whore. That would have destroyed her credibility to most people. Even if she was not convicted they still could have found a way to bring it up. Even if the judge were to tell the jury to disregard such information the jurors are human beings that probably could not forget about it if they tried. A competent lawyer would have done something to make the jurors aware of it.
The energy of the defense team lacked enthusiasm in general too. They did not call many witnesses and the ones they did call were not impressive. At times it seemed like they were just going through the motions. They did a lot of good things too, but overall I was not impressed with his representation. I am glad that he has a new lawyer. Hopefully he can raise ineffective counsel on appeal. I personally raised one in federal court, but it was via habeas corpus after my appeal. Hopefully having a new lawyer (Marc Brown) is an indication that Jeremy intends to challenge the competence of his predecessors.
Jeremy Christian did not receive a fair trial because of the judge and his own lawyers. He should receive a new trial for reasons including failing to bifurcate the Hester case, failing to allow diminished capacity defense, refusing to change the venue, and ineffective assistance of counsel. The appropriate verdict in this case would be manslaughter.