Florida Fatal DWI Case On Trial

There is a DWI trial going on in West Palm Beach now that has captured widespread attention around the U.S. The case involves 48 year old Houston multimillionaire John Goodman, who is charged in the February 12, 2010 death of 23 year old Scott Wilson, who was killed when Goodman’s $200,000 Bentley went through a stop sign and struck Wilson’s vehicle. The accident caused Wilson’s Hyundai to flip over and into a canal, where Wilson drowned. The evidence presented in Court allegedly shows that Goodman’s BAC (blood alcohol concentration) was more than twice the legal limit at the time of the accident.

According to the local medical examiner, Wilson would not have died from his physical injuries in the accident. Accident reconstruction experts claim that the Bentley was traveling at 63 miles per hour at the time of the crash.

Goodman is charged with DUI manslaughter, vehicular homicide and leaving the scene of a serious personal injury accident, and could face up to thirty years in prison if convicted of the charges. The prosecution contends that Goodman’s BAC was approximately 0.18%, more than twice Florida’s legal limit of 0.08%. Ellen Roberts, the prosecutor, informed the jury that Goodman consumed between 16 and 18 drinks before entering his vehicle. They presented evidence from Palm Beach County Sheriff Richard Safford, who testified that Goodman smelled as if alcohol was “almost coming directly from his pores…” and that he had to roll down his windows to let the smell clear out of his vehicle after transporting Goodman to the precinct.

The defense has offered two arguments for Goodman’s innocence. First, they contend that Goodman was not intoxicated prior to the accident, but rather, began drinking after the accident to deal with the pain of his injuries, which include a shattered wrist, broken sternum and an unspecified head injury. The second contention the defense has made is that a malfunction in the Bentley caused the vehicle to accelerate rather than stop when Goodman approached the stop sign.

In disputing the first contention, the prosecution has offered the testimony of two witnesses who observed Goodman drinking at two establishments before the accident. As for the second argument, Ms. Roberts presented the testimony of Wellington Regional Medical Center nurse Cecilia Betts, who testified that Goodman never made any complaints of dizziness, headache, or any other signs of a head injury at the hospital, only wrist pain. Further, during her testimony, Goodman’s girlfriend Heather Laruso Hutchins did not recall Goodman complaining about pain other than of his wrist.

The defense also claims that a purported head injury suffered by Goodman caused him to forget that he had struck another vehicle and that the occupant of that vehicle would need assistance, or at least a call to 911. Goodman apparently left the scene without making an effort to assist in a rescue of Mr. Wilson after the accident. Goodman’s attorney claims that Goodman suffered a concussion, which was responsible for his conduct. However, the prosecution presented evidence that Wilson was able to call his girlfriend to notify her of the accident, and also was physically and mentally capable of walking to another bar and ordering additional drinks.

Two other facts about this case bear mention. First, Goodman’s attorneys have apparently settled a civil wrongful death action with Wilson’s parents for an undisclosed sum. Secondly, in a bizarre twist, Goodman has adopted his 42 year old girlfriend, ostensibly in an effort to protect his substantial assets.

To watch a computer recreation of the Goodman DWI crash, go to this link from the South Florida Sun Sentinel.

The Westchester County DWI Attorneys at the Law Office of Mark A. Siesel in White Plains, New York offer a free initial consultation if you are charged with a felony DWI, aggravated DWI, another crime, or traffic infraction. Are attorneys are available online or toll free at (914) 428-7386 to discuss your legal rights and options and provide skilled, experienced legal representation. Call or e-mail us today.