May 12—Prosecutors and defense lawyers have laid out their own versions of the crash that culminated with the death of 25-year-old motorcyclist Kevin Mayo.
Raleigh Hugh Rodrigues, 68, of Talent, stood his first day of trial Tuesday in Jackson County Circuit Court on felony charges of first- and second-degree manslaughter charges surrounding Mayo's death — and the alleged road rage incidents that preceded the fatal crash during rush hour the evening of Dec. 14, 2017.
During opening statements, Deputy District Attorney Mike Cohen described how Rodrigues, driving a white Chevrolet Silverado truck on the right lane of northbound Interstate 5 between Phoenix and Medford, swerved his full-size pickup into Mayo's lane at least two times in the mile before Mayo lost control and suffered "mortal injuries" by colliding into a metal pole..
"This is a road rage incident, absolutely," Cohen said during opening statements.
Jason Caplan, one of Rodrigues' defense lawyers, argued in his opening statement that it was Mayo who was driving recklessly on his sport bike, and that's what caused the motorcyclist's death on the freeway.
"You will be horrified at the injuries, but Mr. Rodrigues is not responsible," Caplan said.
Caplan and lead defense lawyer Jeni Feinberg allege that the swerve didn't cause the accident. Instead, they said they intend to argue, the crash occurred when Mayo's handlebar and foot peg collided with the side of the truck — causing both motorists to lose control.
Prosecutors brought out witness Nicholas White, who was working as a FedEx semitrailer driver that evening. White described in graphic detail the way he saw Mayo die — and provided dashcam video to corroborate his statements.
The truck driver testified that he saw Rodrigues pull about 100 feet in front of him, and Mayo start to pass Rodrigues. At one point, he used pens and highlighters to explain how he saw Rodrigues swerve once, Mayo swerve back, and Rodrigues swerve again before losing control of the truck.
"The only time that bike touched that car was when he swerved into him," White testified.
The truck lost traction, White testified, when Rodrigues over-corrected after the final swerve.
Defense lawyers brought up a recorded conversation to an Oregon State Police detective investigating the crash eight days later, in which White was recorded saying that he believed that Rodrigues intentionally swerved "to scare" Mayo, but that White believed he didn't intend to kill Mayo.
Mayo suffered severe head trauma and nearly lost his leg after colliding with a road barrier. White described it as seeing someone get "ripped open."
"They couldn't lay him flat he was so broken," White said.
More witnesses will testify Wednesday in Jackson County Circuit Court.
Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTCrimeBeat.