Polo Tycoon’s Story Wasn’t Credible, Juror in DUI Manslaughter Case Says
(WEST PALM BEACH, Fla.) -- A juror who helped convict Florida polo tycoon John Goodman of DUI manslaughter and vehicular homicide said the defendant's testimony, including the argument that he got drunk only after a fatal February 2010 crash, simply wasn't credible.
In fact, Dennis DeMartin, juror number five, told ABC News, Goodman's testimony was "pitiful."
"I really felt sorry for him," said DeMartin, a retired accountant who plans to write a book about the experience. "I didn't think they should have put him on up there. I think that was a mistake."
Goodman, 48, and his defense said he wasn't drunk at the time of the accident in Wellington, Fla., but that his $200,000 Bentley malfunctioned, slamming into Scott Wilson's Hyundai with fatal results, that he hit his head and didn't realize Wilson's car was sinking in the canal nearby.
Wilson, a 23-year-old engineering graduate, was still strapped into the driver's seat and drowned.
Goodman's defense told jurors he wandered away, dazed and with a broken wrist, fractured chest and back injuries, and stumbled upon a barn with a second-floor office that was described during the trial as a "man cave," where he tried to call for help and found some alcohol.
"I grabbed a bottle of liquor, thinking it would help with my pain," Goodman testified.
Goodman's blood alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit when police tested him hours after the crash. "They proved that he had a .177 alcohol in his system plus some drug, but it was prescribed by a doctor," DeMartin said. "So that was the proof he had been drinking."
DeMartin said jurors believed the story about drinking in the "man cave" was "unsubstantiated," and felt, "He must have been drunk [before the crash] because he went through a stop sign."
DeMartin believed Goodman must have run a stop sign near the crash site for the accident to have caused the damage it did.
"You can't start up and just take off and hit the car over there at 60 mph or 30 mph," DeMartin said. "He had to go right through [the stop sign] is what I thought."
Goodman could be given 30 years in prison when sentenced on April 30.
The judge Friday denied defense attorney Roy Black's request for Goodman to be released on bail and Goodman was taken into custody.
DeMartin said jurors had little trouble agreeing on the verdict although they did go back and review the 911 tapes.
"I wanted to be sure that Mr. Goodman admitted that he had a few drinks," DeMartin said. "And I wanted to be sure, because he said, at first, he stopped at the stop sign, looked and then went."
Goodman, the multi-millionaire founder of the International Polo Club Palm Beach, denied being drunk at the time of the crash that killed Wilson, although other testimony contradicted him.
"I think that justice was served. I think [jurors] were very careful," prosecutor Ellen Roberts said at a news conference Friday. "They went over a lot of evidence and I think they probably returned the only verdict they could."
Roberts said she would not know what sentence she planned to recommend to the judge until she spoke with the Wilson family.
Defense attorney Black issued a statement saying that Goodman will appeal the conviction.
"It is our belief that multiple errors were committed during and before the trial that, in effect, denied our client's ability to get a fair trial," Black said. "We intend to file an appeal so that our client can receive the just and fair proceeding to which he is entitled by law."
When attorneys from both sides had their last chance to appeal to jurors in Thursday's closing arguments, they battled about the events of the night of the accident, focusing on how much Goodman had to drink.
"The defendant was impaired, the defendant was speeding, the defendant ran a stop sign, the defendant probably unintentionally had too much to drink that night," prosecutor Sherri Collins said in her closing arguments. "And when the crash happened, did he go around and look at the front of the car to see what he hit or to the canal that was three feet away? No, he headed south.
"He didn't do any of the things that are required by law and, ladies and gentlemen, there is no excuse for that," she said.
When Goodman took the stand, he denied drinking powerful cocktails known as Irish car bombs and mind erasers, which defense attorney Black reiterated in his closing arguments.
"There's no doubt this case is a tragedy, that a young man lost his life," Black said. "This is a sad thing. We all recognize that, but we're not here to compound that tragedy with another one. This is a horrible accident, but this is not a crime."
Goodman has already settled a civil suit over the crash after adopting his 42-year-old girlfriend to help protect his estate.
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