On March 23, 2012, after approximately five hours of deliberations and testimony from competing experts and the defendant himself, a Palm Beach County jury comprised of 5 men and 1 woman convicted multimillionaire Polo Club founder John Goodman, 48, of DUI Manslaughter and vehicular homicide in the February 12, 2010 fatal crash which claimed the life of 23 year old engineering graduate Scott Wilson. The accident occurred when Goodman’s Bentley went through a stop sign and broad sided Wilson’s vehicle at approximately 63 miles per hour. Wilson’s vehicle flipped over and was apparently pushed into a canal by Goodman’s car. The prosecution offered evidence that Goodman’s BAC (blood alcohol concentration) at the time of the crash was .177%, more than double the legal limit of 0.08%.
Further, the prosecution showed that after the accident, Goodman left the scene without assisting Mr. Wilson or calling 911, and through testimony from the medical examiner, that Mr. Wilson died not from his injuries from the accident, (which were described as “superficial”), but rather from drowning. As a result, Goodman was also convicted of failing to provide aid to Wilson, which will lead to a longer jail sentence.
Mr. Goodman retained noted defense attorney Roy Black (famous for his successful representation of JFK nephew William Kennedy Smith in 1991 on rape charges), who lodged a two part defense: First, Black argued that Goodman was not drunk at the time of the accident; rather, he began drinking after the accident. Black contended that after the shock of the accident, Mr. Goodman walked to a local bar, where he drank a half bottle of liquor. Secondly, Black contended that Goodman’s Bentley had a throttle malfunction, causing him to be unable to stop his vehicle as he approached the stop sign. As to the first contention, the defense introduced the testimony of friends of Mr. Goodman, who specifically denied seeing him drink any alcohol that evening. As to the vehicle malfunction argument, there were competing experts from the prosecution and the defense, arguing whether vehicle codes in the vehicle were set prior to the crash, (proving a throttle malfunction), or after the crash, as the prosecution’s expert testified.
The defense also argued that Goodman suffered a concussion in the accident which prevented him from remembering what had occurred or offering any assistance to Mr. Wilson. In support of this argument, they took the risky step of putting Mr. Goodman on the stand, who was unable to recall almost anything of the evening’s events other than he was not intoxicated at the time of the deadly crash. Without question, Goodman’s testimony did not help his cause. One juror, Dennis DeMartin, called putting Goodman on the stand a “big mistake” after he stumbled through three hours of cross examination and acknowledged having 3 or 4 drinks prior to the accident in contradiction of his defense’ main contention that he had nothing to drink before the accident. The defense was also hurt significantly by testimony of Goodman’s girlfriend, who denied that he complained of any head injury, and the emergency room nurse, who testified that Goodman complained only of wrist pain.
Mr. Goodman faces 30 years in prison on the manslaughter and vehicular homicide charges when he is sentenced on April 30th. Mr. Black has vowed to appeal, citing “multiple errors…committed during and before the trial that, in effect, denied our client’s ability to get a fair trial.” In an unusual decision undoubtedly made as a result of Goodman’s considerable wealth and potential as a flight risk, Judge Jeffrey Colbath denied Goodman’s application for bail while Goodman awaits sentencing.
In all likelihood, Goodman will end up getting a sentence of approximately 12-15 years when he is sentenced on April 30th.
The Law Office of Mark A. Siesel in White Plains, New York represents many clients charged with a variety of DWI offenses, including driving while ability impaired by drugs, aggravated DWI, felony DWI, as well as in numerous adminstrative proceedings related to DWI’s, such as Refusal Hearings and Fatality Hearings with the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles ( NYDMV). We will aggressively contest each and every element of the charges against you and make the necessary determination as to whether the case should go to trial or be resolved through a plea bargain. Call us toll free at (914) 428-7386 or contact us online for your free initial consultation today.