The Oregon Court of Appeals has overturned the life sentence of a Hillsboro drug dealer who shot his business partner in a secluded Cornelius-area cemetery in 2010.
Brian Bement, now 39, has been serving a life sentence since 2012 for the murder of David Greenspan, a naturopathic doctor with a practice in Tigard.
Greenspan, 46, was found March 14, 2010, slumped over in the driver's seat of his car at Methodist Cemetery on Northwest Cornelius-Schefflin Road. He had been shot twice in the head and once in the neck. Bement was found guilty of aggravated murder, murder, first-degree robbery and being a felon in possession of a firearm.
On Wednesday, March 8, the Court of Appeals ruled that Bement should receive a new trial after Washington County Circuit Court Judge Rick Knapp barred a series of emails sent by Greenspan in 2009 and 2010 from being entered as evidence.
Read the court's opinion
In his appeal, Bement argued that the emails were vital in establishing the defense's case — that Greenspan had become paranoid about money and tried to rob Bement of $20,000 in the Cornelius cemetery.
Well-known in the Portland area naturopathic community, Greenspan ran the Greenspan GoodHealth Clinic on Hampton Street in Tigard. He also hosted a Portland cable-access TV show where he dispensed health tips and was the former president of the Oregon Association of Naturopathic Physicians.
But Greenspan had fallen on hard times. He had separated from his longtime girlfriend and began using drugs. His business was in financial trouble. He soon became a partner in Bement's drug dealing operation, financing purchases of heroin, which Bement sold on the street.
According to Bement's appeal, Greenspan's emails became increasingly paranoid as he fell deeper and deeper into drug addiction. He began to fixate about his failing medical practice. Greenspan, who Bement said was a regular user of methamphetamine at the time of his death, began to suspect the employees at his clinic of stealing money from him. He began to believe he was going bankrupt and that fear — Bement argued — led him to try and rob Bement on the day of his death.
Jurors never saw some of those emails. Knapp, the judge in Bement's case, ruled the emails weren't relevant to the case, in part because they were sent months before his death.
The Oregon Court of Appeals disagreed, saying that the emails would have helped jurors understand Greenspan's state of mind in the weeks and months before he died.
"Those statements are evidence that '(Greenspan) had spent the last several months of his life believing that his financial straits were growing more and more dire,'" the Court of Appeals wrote in its opinion. "…That evidence has a tendency to make it more probable that (Greenspan) reached a state of mind … that provided a 'motive to act desperately and violently to get money from (Bement).'"
In court, Bement said he and Greenspan drove to the cemetery north of Cornelius with $20,000 to conduct a drug deal, but Greenspan instead tried to rob him as Bement was counting money in the back seat of the car. Greenspan, sitting in the driver's seat, pulled out a gun and demanded the cash.
"When I looked up and I saw that gun in my face, the look in his eyes was a person I had never seen before," Bement testified. "That person was trying to kill me."
The two struggled, and Greenspan dropped the gun. Bement grabbed it and shot Greenspan three times in the head. He fled the scene with the money wrapped in a towel.
Prosecutors said Bement drove Greenspan to the cemetery in order to execute him and keep the money for himself. Prosecutors said that Bement owed Greenspan as much as $300,000, and killed the naturopath to avoid paying him back. After shooting Greenspan, Bement wiped down the gun, then arranged the scene so it looked like a suicide, according to prosecutors.
"This was a coldblooded killing with no excuses," Deputy District Attorney Jeffrey Lesowski told jurors during opening statements.
Jurors struggled with their decision. After the trial was over, it took a week before the jury handed in their guilty verdict. Bement faced the death penalty in his case, but jurors opted instead for life without the possibility of parole.
"…It appears that the jury's 'decision in this case was a close one,'" the Court of Appeals wrote. "…(Greenspan's) mental state was likely a central factual issue that the jury considered in reaching its verdict, and the excluded statements tended to support (Bement's) theory regarding (Greenspan's) mental state in a way that the other evidence could not."
Bement's case returns to Washington County prosecutors, who will decided whether to hold a new trial for Bement.
By Geoff Pursinger
Associate Editor, Hillsboro Tribune
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