The retrial of International Polo Club Chief John Goodman, for DUI manslaughter has now been fixed for 3 weeks in March of next year. The Palm Beach County Chief Circuit Judge, Jeffrey Colbeth, has made a series of rulings in relation to the controversial case.
For a start, the defense attorneys request for the trial to be moved somewhere else rather than Palm Beach County has been denied. The request was made on the grounds that media attention was making a fair trial within the county impossible. Judge Colbeth said that if an unprejudiced jury really couldn’t be secured in Palm Beach, then he might move the trial to Tampa or somewhere else in Florida.
Goodman was arrested for the DUI manslaughter of a university student when he was alleged to have lost control of his Bentley at speed near Wellington two years ago and hit the other man’s car. Scott Wilson was drowned after his car was pushed into a lagoon. Goodman was initially charged with DUI manslaughter and sentenced to 16 years in jail. However, in what has been one more step in an increasingly sensational case, his trial was overturned when one of the jurors at the original trial was accused of misconduct.
Judge Colbeth has also denied the request for a “gag” of witnesses and attorneys in the pre-trial period. The gag was surprisingly requested by both the defense and the prosecution. Goodman’s defense attorneys had initially requested the gag because of the attitude of the original prosecution attorney, Ellen Roberts. According to the defense, Roberts has continually been making public utterances ridiculing Goodman or criticizing his conduct.
The judge said that he did not think that having a gag for a single witness was necessary, unless Ms. Roberts continued to make prejudicial comments in public.
Another request by Goodman’s defense team was taken into consideration by the judge this time. This relates to an inspection of his car. The car has since been sold off for spare parts and what is left of it is now in Texas. Goodman testified during the first trial that his Bentley had malfunctioned and this had contributed to the accident. He said that the accelerator pedal did not respond to control immediately before Scott Wilson’s car was hit. The defense team hired an expert who apparently claimed that the Bentley’s throttle mechanism failed in the period just before the accident. The car is to be brought back to Florida for a thorough inspection. It had been tipped that the Goodman defense team may have requested a dismissal of the charge if the car had not been returned for inspection.
The prosecution has been denied access to Goodman’s medical records for the year before the accident. They have pointed to trace amounts of a drug, hydrocodone, found in Goodman’s blood after his arrest and wanted to determine whether his use of the drug as a medication before the day of the accident had any effect on his driving. The judge declared that the only drug evidence of any consequence was that found in Goodman’s blood at the time of his arrest.
Goodman was found to have had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.177% 3 hours after his arrest (twice the legal limit), but now this may prove to be a significant turning point in the long running case as well.
Goodman’s defense attorneys have asked for the blood alcohol evidence not to be used in the retrial because it was taken without a warrant. Goodman apparently agreed to have a blood test after an officer told him he could take it by force. A recent Federal ruling in Missouri made a decision that because of the Fourth Amendment, a blood sample can only reasonably be taken with a warrant or in an emergency and this may have a bearing on the case here in Florida.
The next 4 months is unlikely to see any relaxation in the ongoing battle between defense and prosecution over Goodman’s fate.
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