John Goodman, the Florida multimillionaire who was found guilty of DUI manslaughter in March of this year, was sentenced to 16 years in jail and a $10,000 fine by Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Jeffrey Colbath on May 11, 2012. In sentencing Goodman, Colbath noted that his motivation after the accident occurred was only “to save himself”, and not to assist the victim Scott Wilson, who died in the accident.
Colbath denied the application of Goodman for a new trial after his March 23, 2012 conviction for vehicular homicide and DUI manslaughter. (In Florida it is known as DUI Manslaughter, which means driving under the influence, rather than driving while intoxicated in New York State). As we originally reported in March, the accident which killed 23 year old engineer Scott Wilson occurred on February 12, 2010 when Goodman’s Bentley passed through a stop sign and broad sided Wilson’s vehicle at approximately 63 miles per hour. Wilson’s car flipped over and was apparently pushed into a canal by Goodman’s car. The prosecution was able to prove that Goodman’s BAC (blood alcohol concentration) at the time of the crash was .177%, more than double the legal limit of 0.08%.
Goodman’s attorneys initially moved for a new trial based on the statements of one juror, Michael St. John, who alleged that he was pressured into the decision to find Goodman guilty in Wilson’s death. However, the prosecution argued successfully to Judge Colbath that these statements were too late, as when the jury originally announced its verdict, Mr. St. John indicated his agreement with the verdict and did not claim that he had been pressured. In denying the new trial motion, the judge stated: “To allow such decisions to be attacked months or even years after the close of a case because a juror experiences post-verdict regret would open our trial system to a virtual onslaught of attacks from dissatisfied parties and jurors.”
There was then a second application by Goodman’s attorneys for a new trial, as the result of the publication last week of a book by another juror, Dennis DeMartin, entitled “Believing In The Truth.” In the book, DeMartin reveals that during the case, before deliberations began, he engaged in an experiment in which he drank three vodkas the night before the jury deliberated to determine what impact this would have on his driving. Goodman had testified during the trial that he had only three drinks before the fatal crash, which would seem to be belied by the evidence that his blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was noted to be .177%, more than double the legal limit.
During preliminary instructions to the jury, judges generally inform the jurors that they should not read, listen to, or attempt to obtain any external evidence, including returning to crime scenes or reenacting any elements of an event. Judge Colbath, an experienced jurist, undoubtedly gave the jurors an instruction to avoid any external evidence during the pendency of the case, but DeMartin has claimed that he didn’t recall Judge Colbath instructing the jurors not to conduct any experiments. Based upon DeMartin’s allegations about the drinking experiment he performed, Goodman’s attorneys asked that the guilty verdict be tossed out as a result of what they claimed was a clear case of juror misconduct, stating “Mr. DeMartin flagrantly violated this Court’s instructions not to engage in personal investigations into the facts…” However, Judge Colbath rejected this second application for a new trial as well.
Although it is rare, there have been cases in which a verdict was thrown out due to juror experiments. For example, in 1986 in California in a case involving defendant Johnny Ramon Castro, a juror used binoculars to confirm the accuracy of the testimony of a prison guard who had testified that be viewed the defendant with binoculars during a prison riot. The verdict was overturned, despite the fact that the judge in the Castro case never specifically instructed the jurors not to conduct experiments, which Judge Colbath did do in the Goodman case.
Goodman could have faced up to 30 years in prison. He has been released on seven million dollar bond while his appeal is pending. Goodman is on house arrest, will be monitored with a GPS device, is not permitted to apply for a passport and his driver’s license has been permanently revoked.