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Manslaughter trial to start in dispatcher's 2014 death

The trial of a Grants Pass man accused of driving the wrong way on Interstate 5 while intoxicated and killing an off-duty dispatcher from Ashland is set to start Tuesday — 2½ years after the head-on collision.

Richard Webster Scott, 45, faces charges of first-degree manslaughter and driving under the influence in the trial scheduled to run Tuesday through Thursday in Jackson County Circuit Court in Medford.

"The trial starts tomorrow," Jackson County Circuit Court Judge David Hoppe said Monday at a pre-trial conference hearing during which Scott complained again that he wanted his latest court-appointed defense attorney removed from his case.

"He said I'm going to die in prison," claimed Scott, who is currently represented by attorney Mark Hendershott.

If convicted of first-degree manslaughter, Scott faces a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison under Oregon's Measure 11 guidelines.

Since the March 2014 crash, Scott has had several court-appointed defense attorneys removed from his case and filed complaints against Jackson County Circuit Judge Timothy Barnack and Chief Deputy District Attorney Jeremy Markiewicz. He also was sent to the Oregon State Hospital for a psychiatric evaluation and then returned to the Jackson County Jail to stand trial.

On Friday, Scott tried to have Hendershott removed from his case, and also sought a change of venue out of Jackson County. Both his motions were denied.

According to police, Scott was driving north in an I-5 southbound lane near Phoenix when his Dodge Caravan collided with the vehicle driven by Karen Greenstein, 58, at about 3 a.m. on March 27, 2014.

Greenstein was a longtime dispatcher for Emergency Communications of Southern Oregon and had been named ECSO's Dispatcher of the Year in 2011.

In his change-of-venue motion, Scott asked that his trial be moved to a county at least 200 miles away.

He said pre-trial publicity about the case has created "a deep and bitter prejudice towards defendant."

Scott noted Greenstein was a 911 dispatcher and about 500 people, including police officers, attended her memorial service. He also said television and newspaper coverage, including Mail Tribune articles, had created a prejudicial environment against him.

Meanwhile, the Jackson County District Attorney's Office is intending to introduce evidence that could extend any prison sentence given to Scott. The DA's Office said Scott is a repeat offender and the offense for which he is charged "demonstrates the defendant's disregard for any laws and inability to be deterred from committing new criminal activity."

Greenstein's family has a pending civil case against Scott and Oregon Driver and Motor Vehicle Services. The case alleges the DMV should not have issued a driver's license to Scott because he had a suspended or revoked license in California for alcohol-related offenses.

The attorney in the civil case has said Scott's blood alcohol level was well over the legal limit.

The night of the crash, a gas station attendant in Grants Pass called police to report an intoxicated driver was stumbling and slurring his speech before driving away from a pump. Police searched the freeway in the Grants Pass area, but were unable to locate him.

Investigators said they believe Scott turned around at the Talent I-5 interchange and then headed north in a southbound lane, leading him into Greenstein's path.

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-776-4486 or valdous@mailtribune.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/VickieAldous.

Richard Scott
A celebration of life ceremony for Karen Greenstein drew some 500 people to Ashland High School. Mail Tribune file photo