Jeremy Christian reacts to witness testimony Feb. 5, day seven of testimony in the trial for the stabbing of three people on a MAX train in May 2017.

A neuropsychologist who tested Jeremy Christian testified Tuesday that Christian has slightly slower than normal processing speeds and trouble assessing unfamiliar circumstances — and that could have led him to stab three men in the neck on a MAX train, killing two.

Glena Andrews, a professor of clinical psychology at George Fox University in Newberg, was the first defense psychologist to take the stand this week, in the second day of Christian’s defense case and ninth day of trial.

Andrews said Christian appears to be among a group who “struggle to understand people around them and the world around them” and enjoy being alone. She said Christian has trouble understanding a situation from another person’s perspective and he can get “fixated” on his fervent belief in free speech.

“He will not see the full picture,” Andrews said.

Christian’s defense team is working full-steam to support the argument that Christian acted in self-defense and has cognitive deficits that led him to react violently and out of fear when others on the train confronted him about a loud, hate-filled rant on May 26, 2017. Christian repeatedly said he was exercising his free speech, and after his arrest he told police he stabbed the three men because they infringed on his right to speak his mind.

Among the crimes Christian, 37, has been charged with are two counts of first-degree murder, one count of attempted first-degree murder and three counts of first-degree intimidation, a hate crime. Christian is accused of targeting two teenage girls on the train, one who is African-American and the other who immigrated from Somalia and was wearing a hijab.

Witnesses said the encounter grew violent after passenger Taliesin Namkai-Meche walked over to Christian with his phone out and reportedly said “You’re about to become an internet sensation.” Christian threw Namkai-Meche’s phone on the floor. Micah Fletcher, another train passenger, immediately approached in an effort to get Christian to leave the train.

Video shows the three men standing face-to-face, Christian and Fletcher yelling at each other before Christian throws the first two shoves — at Fletcher and then Namkai-Meche.

Fletcher responded by grabbing or pushing Christian three times, then Christian stabbed Fletcher in the neck, followed by Namkai-Meche and Ricky Best. Best was standing behind Namkai-Meche and apparently had no previous interaction with Christian. Namkai-Meche, 23, and Best, 53, died.

Video shows Christian’s stabbing spree lasted 10 to 12 seconds.

Andrews, the defense psychologist, said she gave Christian a series of tests on two separate days. She said she couldn’t find a diagnosis for Christian’s cognitive problems, but they likely have been with him since birth.

“Do you think 10 or 12 seconds is enough time for him to make important decisions?” asked Greg Scholl, one of Christian’s defense attorneys.

“No,” Andrews responded. “… It would be a very fast time frame for his brain to make a decision. … Any person with these deficits will have a difficult time interacting with the world, … will have a difficult time making decisions in new places or with new information.”

During cross examination, prosecutor Jeff Howes questioned Andrews about whether she thought Christian had made a spur-of-the-moment decision to stab the three men that afternoon on the train.

Prosecutors have contended that Christian had been talking about stabbing people the night before the killings, after Christian threw a Gatorade bottle at an African American woman on a Yellow Line train.

Howes also was critical of Andrews’ assessments that Christian was cognitively below average in some areas and that could have led him to stab other passengers. Upon more detailed questioning, Andrews said in many tests Christian scored average or even better than the mean, such as in the 68th percentile of people on a verbal comprehension test. But he did score below average in some tests.

Andrews also noted that Christian has an IQ of 98, was born with no evidence that his mother had abused drugs or alcohol while pregnant and earned his GED at age 16 after having previously stopped his schooling in the ninth grade. Christian later enrolled in Portland Community College.

Howes asked Andrews if Christian “got all As and a B in a full course load” one term. Andrews answered that he had. Andrews also confirmed that he held down a job at Pietro’s Pizza for four years and was able to take public transportation to get around.

But Howes also asked Andrews whether Christian got into “lots of physical altercations” in his adult life, and Andrews agreed.

In asking follow-up questions, Scholl, the defense attorney, asked if it’s possible for someone to be intelligent but still have cognitive deficits. Scholl brought up the example of Albert Einstein, who is said to have had an IQ of 160 but didn’t drive a car.

Andrews agreed that a highly intelligent person could still have impairments.

(1) comment

D Kelly

Cognitive deficit? Of course, he’s a drunk/alcoholic and should be treated for it. In prison.

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