Has John Goodman Even Taken an Alcohol Awareness Class?

by: Mike Miller

How long ago was it that playboy John Goodman was arrested driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol and manslaughter?

Pencil in late February or early March for the start of Wellington polo executive John Goodman's DUI manslaughter retrial, over objections by prosecutors eager to begin much earlier. As reported in www.sun-sentinel.com.

"Sometime around there," Palm Beach County Chief Circuit Judge Jeffrey Colbath advised attorneys during a hearing Monday, after granting a defense wish to move the trial date for Goodman, 50, beyond January because of pending disputes over evidence. "Sooner rather than later."

Seven months ago, Colbath overturned Goodman's conviction and 16-year prison sentence, ruling alleged misconduct by juror Dennis DeMartin prevented a fair trial in March 2012 for the founder of International Polo Club Palm Beach and heir to a Texas air-conditioning fortune.

Now numerous pre-trial issues must be resolved before a new jury is sworn for the high-profile case, focusing on the charge Goodman drove drunk and caused the Feb. 12, 2010 crash that killed Scott Patrick Wilson, 23.

Media gag order: An unusual joint request by the defense and prosecutors seeks a judicial order barring attorneys and witnesses in the case from making comments to reporters outside of the courtroom until the verdict — or perhaps until the start of the trial if jurors are sequestered.

Local news organizations, including the Sun Sentinel, oppose such a measure. Colbath said he will rule sometime this week.

The gag, said defense attorney Douglas Duncan, is needed to muzzle former lead Goodman prosecutor Ellen Roberts, who, while no longer working for the state, has bashed Goodman in media interviews for more than a year.

"All we want on behalf of Mr. Goodman, like any citizen, is to have a fair trial, a jury unbiased by outside influences," Duncan said.

Roberts was not at Monday's hearing and could not be reached for comment despite calls. She has been quoted attacking Goodman over his claim that his Bentley malfunctioned before the crash; a charge that Goodman last year tampered with his house arrest ankle monitor; Goodman's request to remove the monitor and his bail after his conviction was tossed.

The defense argument is that if newspaper readers continue to see negative comments about Goodman, always followed by a "no comment" by Goodman's lawyers, it's damaging to Goodman.

But on the other hand, the defense acknowledged it might be better for Goodman if the bashing continues.

"Perhaps we shouldn't ask for the gag order because if it continues as it's been going on then it just adds to our motion for a change of venue," Duncan told Colbath. The judge in October rejected the defense's bid to move the retrial out of Palm Beach County because of concerns negative publicity will make it impossible to find impartial jurors.

Chief Assistant State Attorney Alan Johnson gave the gag order request a lukewarm endorsement, noting, "I'm beginning to think that, perhaps, the cure is worse than the disease."

The prosecutor also accused the defense of intentionally dragging out the pretrial proceedings by seeking out new experts and going over old files just acquired from Goodman's former attorneys.

"This is a dilatory tactic," Johnson said.

Goodman's medical records: Prosecutors want the court to approve a subpoena for Goodman's medical records from a doctor in Texas for the year preceding the crash. A post-crash blood test showed traces of hydrocodone from a prescribed dose of Vicodin that Goodman was taking for back pain.

The state wants to explore whether this drug contributed to Goodman's impairment — the blood alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit — on the night of the tragedy, prosecutor Sherri Collins said.

The state wants to know more about the prescription so a toxicologist can better assess Goodman's tolerance, she said. These medical records should indicate the dosage, when it was prescribed, and whether Goodman was advised not to drink alcohol with the pills.

Defense attorney Elizabeth Parker said the records request is unlawful, and a "fishing expedition." Colbath said he'll issue a ruling from his chambers.

Motion to dismiss the charges: Goodman's attorneys are arguing a key piece of evidence — the 2007 Bentley Continental GTC driven by the defendant during the crash — has been spoiled because it was released by the State Attorney's Office after the first trial.

Defense experts are heading to Texas to inspect what remains of the smashed vehicle by Dec. 13, with the cooperation of its new owner, who apparently bought it for parts. Prosecutors don't oppose the inspection, but they said the car is unnecessary for the retrial because of expert reviews by both sides before Round One.

Colbath asked the attorneys to return Jan. 14 to discuss the status of pre-trial preparations. But the judge said he'll also schedule a separate day-long hearing to address the Bentley and a slew of other pleadings.

One is a defense motion to throw out Goodman's post-crash blood test results because the blood sample was taken without a warrant.

This year the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 8-1 in a Missouri case that police officers usually must have a search warrant before requiring a suspected driver to have blood drawn. The justices said the Fourth Amendment's ban on "unreasonable searches" means that unless there is an emergency police need a warrant before invading an individual's privacy and taking blood.

Goodman's attorneys say this decision can be applied retroactively to Goodman's case, the motion contends.

Goodman initially declined to give a blood sample after 1 a.m. crash, when authorities say he ran a stop sign at 63 mph and smashed into Wilson's Hyundai Sonata, at the intersection of 120th Avenue and Lake Worth Road in Wellington. Wilson's car flipped into a canal, and he drowned.

Goodman relented to a blood test only after a deputy told him he had probable cause to draw blood forcibly, according to arrest records. The blood samples taken three hours after the crash showed a blood alcohol level of .177, exceeding the .08 legal limit. Goodman testified he drank liquor in a "man cave" after the crash to dull the pain of a broken wrist.