Oregon man convicted in racially motivated murder of black teen
A jury in Oregon on Tuesday convicted a white man of murdering a black teen while wearing a hat with white supremacist symbols, striking the victim with his Jeep after a dispute at a convenience store parking lot more than two years ago.
The jury of four women and eight men who deliberated nearly 10 hours over three days agreed with prosecutors who insisted Russell Courtier, 40, acted out of racial malice when he drove into 19-year-old Larnell Bruce Jr. after a dispute at a 7-Eleven in Gresham, the Oregonian reports.
The verdict appears to mark the state’s first hate crime murder conviction in three decades, according to the newspaper.
Prosecutors said Courtier had joined a white supremacist prison gang called European Kindred while behind bars in 2003 and 2004. He also had the gang’s initials and logo tattooed on one of his legs and his xenophobic, hateful beliefs were no secret.
Courtier’s attorneys argued during trial that Bruce attacked Courtier without provocation on Aug. 10, 2016, after driving up to the convenience store with his girlfriend.
But prosecutor David Hannon countered that no evidence indicated that Bruce started the fight, citing surveillance video showing the black teen standing outside the 7-Eleven until Courtier pulled up and parked before a confrontation ensued.
It’s unclear what led to the dispute, but Hannon noted that Bruce was black and Courtier was wearing a hat clearly depicting white supremacist symbols. Hannon also played jurors a video showing Courtier using a racial slur while being interviewed by investigators, according to the Oregonian.
Attorneys for Courtier, who did not testify in his own defense, suggested he had a concussion during the fight and wasn’t thinking or behaving rationally when he drove into the black teen.
Several of Bruce’s relatives were overwhelmed by the verdict, saying they believed jurors had provided them some measure of justice.
“I’m so happy,” Bruce’s mother, Christina Miles, told the newspaper.
Courtier’s girlfriend, Colleen Hunt, pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter last week. Witnesses reported hearing her urge Courtier to attack the teen from the passenger seat of the Jeep, saying, “Get him, baby!” and “run him over!”
Hunt has agreed to a 10-year prison sentence, the Oregonian reports.
Courtier, who was found guilty of murder, second-degree intimidation and hit-and-run, will face a minimum sentence of life in prison with the possibility of release after 25 years. His sentencing date has not yet been set.
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