Mother OK with no death penalty for son's killer
When Ashland resident Asha Deliverance learned prosecutors wouldn’t seek the death penalty in her son’s 2017 murder on a Portland TriMet train, she said good.
Far from wanting another death, she has sought restorative justice, which seeks to repair the damage, not punish for it.
Her son, Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche, 23, a Reed College graduate, died along with Rickey Best, 53, when they tried to stop the racial harassment of two teenage girls, one of whom was wearing a hijab, on the MAX train May 26, 2017.
“I’m guided by what Taliesin said as he was dying, ‘Tell everyone on that train I love them.’ He meant that mainly for Jeremy Christian (the accused murderer). The whole event was recorded by many people on the train, and DA people told me that it shows Taliesin approaching Jeremy in a very peaceful way.”
Deliverance explained it’s a “broken system” that imprisons an offender for decades while failing to solve the problems of violence and mental illness of offenders. She adds that the “true issue” is the gross misuse of resources — an estimated $30,000 a year to imprison one offender in Oregon multiplied by 50 years equals $3 million — that could be used on restorative justice.
“Now we have to spend millions on Jeremy in prison, and he’ll be a danger to everyone there,” she said. “He’s already attacked a black man in prison, and he learned white supremacy from being in prison earlier. Why not turn these millions into psychological healing of a man who could emerge a radiant, brilliant, heartful being in five years?”
After the murders, Deliverance won wide praise for starting a movement called “I Choose Love” and for supporting restorative justice, which brings together all sides — victims, offender, community — to be heard and get to goals of victim reparation, individual accountability and community interests.
“Restorative justice is good because everyone needs to be heard. It’s about listening to other people’s perspectives. Just being heard is so healing,” she said. “But he is so psychotic, it might not make any difference.
“I never was seeking the death penalty, only healing for Jeremy. ... I would like for someone to ask him if he wants to spend his life in prison or if he would like to leave (by death). I would like to know. Healing for him and his psychotic issues would require extensive psychological therapy and medication, and you might not get to restorative justice.”
The Multnomah County District Attorney brought aggravated murder charges against Christian — the only capital offense in Oregon — but a controversial new law that recently went into effect, SB 1013, limited the death penalty to premeditated murder of children younger than 14, murders of law enforcement officers, organized terrorist attacks that kill at least two people, or prison killings by someone previously convicted of murder.
Christian did not fit in any of those categories, so a judge ruled Nov. 1 he would have to be tried for first-degree murder, which carries a life sentence. Because of outbursts in court, Christian’s hands and feet were shackled to a waist restraint at the Nov. 1 hearing. Christian, 37, will be tried starting Jan. 31. The trial is expected to take a month.
After the trial, he faces federal charges of menacing, intimidation and assault for harassing a black woman and throwing a bottle in her face as she got off the MAX train the night before the murders.
John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.