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Texas Millionaire John Goodman Retrial For Drunk Driving Vehicular Manslaughter: Lessons in Zealous Criminal Defense

This story starts in February 2010 over in Florida, in a town about the same distance north of Miami as Austin is to San Antonio. John Goodman, a Texas native and heir to a huge family fortune built by his daddy down in Houston, was driving his convertible Bentley extremely fast when he crashed into a Hyundai driving by a 23 year old Florida man named Scott Wilson.

The crash site tells us that the Bentley was going at a high speed. It also tells us that the impact of the collision was so fierce that Goodman’s car thrust Wilson’s car into a watery canal, where Scott Wilson, unable to exit his vehicle, drowned.

Police reports reveal that John Goodman left the scene, not calling the police and not phoning for emergency help. Evidence from the prosecution is that John Goodman drove away.

It’s already sounding like an episode of Law and Order, isn’t it?

Florida Criminal Law Applies to the Case (Similar to Texas)

Since this accident happened in Florida, Florida state criminal law applies. There, it’s not “DWI” like it is here; in Florida, the crime is essentially the same, but it’s called “driving under the influence,” or DUI.

Both Texas and Florida measure blood alcohol content (BAC) to determine if there is a criminal violation. Both states will charge someone with felony homicide (at some level) if someone dies in the crash involving drunk driving.

Here, you’ll see “intoxication manslaughter” charges, for example, like those that Dallas Cowboy Josh Brent faced last January.

When John Goodman’s blood was tested 3 hours after the accident, his blood tested out at being twice the legal limit.  Houston millionaire John Goodman was arrested by Florida police for driving drunk. He was also charged with the death of Scott Wilson and faced charges of vehicular manslaughter.

 

So, Mr. Goodman hired him some very good criminal defense lawyers over in Florida. And they’ve been providing an excellent example of how DWI criminal defense mounts a zealous fight for a client.

Drunk Driving Defense Lawyers Fight Hard For Their Client

It’s not up to the criminal defense attorney to judge his client. That’s why there is a judge and jury.

It is up to the criminal defense attorney to make sure that the prosecution does its job of moving forward with its investigation and prosecution of the criminal charges without violation of any legal rights of the defendant along the way.

The defense insists that the state attorney does his or her job right and meets their “beyond a reasonable doubt” burden before a citizen loses their freedom and has their life destroyed by that prosecution.  

Look what’s happened so far in Florida.

John Goodman already went to trial once. He was convicted of DUI manslaughter and vehicular homicide in March 2012 in the case and sentenced to spend 16 years in a Florida prison.

Didn’t happen, though, because Goodman’s attorneys took the prosecution’s case up to the appellate court for review. When the papers got graded by the appeals court, that conviction was overturned.

So, the prosecution now has to try the case again. That case is geared up now over in Florida.

The new trial is being held in West Palm Beach, but the jury was chosen in Tampa because the trial judge has agreed with the defense that there has been so much media coverage of the case in Palm Beach that Mr. Goodman could not get an impartial jury there.

Already, the trial is getting very, very interesting from a defense standpoint.

For instance, the second jury isn’t going to be able to view the cars that were involved in the crash. The Bentley and the Hyandai aren’t going to be part of the evidence this time — the jury is going to have to be satisfied with accident reconstruction experts providing visuals for them.

The twist: the inability to produce the vehicles (which were crucial to the first trial) isn’t the result of anything the defense argued.

Nope; seems the officials that had custody and control of the wrecks released them after that first conviction — and they were off to the scrap yard to be smashed and crushed. A big prosecutorial whoopsie.

Goodman’s Defense: He Wasn’t Drunk at the Time of the Crash; Brakes Failed

This week, Goodman’s defense team began mounting their defense argument at this new trial. Goodman is arguing that after this horrific crash, he went to a friend’s place nearby and got drunk. He is arguing that he was NOT drunk at the time of the accident.

This is key. No DUI if the jury believes that Goodman got drunk after he was in the accident.

It’s being called the “Man Cave Defense” in the media. And the defense has already brought in testimony that no law enforcement officer ever asked to see the “man cave” — there was no police investigation of Goodman’s story that he went to his pal’s place and drank. Another whoopsie.

Add to this the expert testimony yesterday that Goodman had suffered a serious head trauma in the accident and not only wasn’t thinking straight at the time after a blow to the head that was “like getting hit in the head by Mike Tyson,” and that defense team is definitely doing its job.

Today, the defense team is putting John Goodman himself on the stand, and he’s testified that his brakes failed at the time of the crash, among other things.  Another big fact — and one has to wonder, where the brakes tested on that car during the investigation and the first trial? Is this yet another prosecutorial whoopsie?

A Fierce Criminal Defense Is Needed For Serious DWI Charges

Again, the point here is that the defense lawyers in the John Goodman representation are exemplifying the legal efforts that a strong drunk driving defense lawyer undertakes to represent their client. All too often, clients choose lawyers without this kind of expertise or fire, and face reaping the whirlwind.

Those Florida defense lawyers are doing their job. Hat tip.

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For more information on criminal defense in drunk driving cases, see our DWI resources page and these articles:

1. TEXAS DWI DEFENSES TO B.A.C. BLOOD TEST RESULTS (MAY WORK FOR OTHER STATE DRUNK DRIVING DEFENSES, TOO)

2. THE CRUEL REALITY OF CRIMINAL EVIDENCE: IT’S JUST NOT THAT RELIABLE

For case results of Michael Lowe in DWI and related matters, see our Case Results which include:


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