A juror who voted last month to convict John Goodman of DUI-manslaughter told the judge Monday that he now regrets that decision, saying he wasn’t convinced the Wellington polo magnate was guilty but felt pressured to go along with the other jurors.
The dramatic revelation came during an unusual hearing, in which Goodman’s defense team requested Palm Beach Circuit Judge Jeffrey Colbath ask the six jurors questions about potential misconduct before their deliberations began.
Juror Michael St. John of West Palm Beach told the judge he felt at least some of the jurors had decided on Goodman’s guilt before the trial ended.
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120th Avenue and Lake Worth Road, Wellington, FL
“Comments like, ‘You know he’s guilty. Let’s just sign the paperwork and get out of here,’” St. John said, as Goodman’s defense attorneys — including Miami attorney Roy Black — paid close attention. “I thought like these people had their minds made up.”
He went on to say, “I didn’t feel the whole process was taken seriously,” adding he voted for guilty “from the pressure I was getting from them.”
Each juror was polled by the judge after the verdict, and they all affirmed their guilty votes. Colbath asked St. John why he did not speak up then, when given the chance.
St. John replied that at the time he was so ashamed he could not look Goodman or the judge in the eye. “When I walked out of there I knew I should have stuck by my guns,” he said.
The statements raise new legal issues in Goodman’s conviction, and now Colbath must decide if St. John’s assertions are enough to warrant a new trial, a ruling the judge said he expects to make within days.
Prosecutor Ellen Roberts said she didn’t think the new information was sufficient to overturn the verdict.
“Based on what I know so far, I’m not concerned,” she said.
Black said he would continue to pursue legal issues until he was assured there was no misconduct and that Goodman received a “fair shake.”
The other five jurors told the judge they observed no misconduct, such as conversations about the case or Goodman’s wealth. They also said they didn’t hear their colleagues stating they had made up their minds about Goodman’s guilt before the trial was over or that they felt pressure to vote one way or another.
Goodman, 48, initially was to be sentenced Monday on the DUI-manslaughter charge, which carries up to 30 years in prison. That now is set for May 11, if Goodman’s conviction stands. He remains in the Palm Beach County Jail without bail.
Jury deliberations and verdicts are considered sacrosanct in the legal world, and judges are reluctant to second-guess the process without clear evidence suggesting misconduct.
The jury convicted Goodman March 23 after less than six hours of deliberations, finding he was intoxicated when his Bentley smashed into a car driven by Scott Wilson, 23, flipping Wilson’s car into a canal where he drowned.
Goodman was driving south on 120th Avenue in Wellington, at 63 mph, and ran a stop sign at Lake Worth Road, smashing into Wilson’s Hyundai. The crash happened around 1 a.m. Feb. 12, 2010, after Goodman —founder of Polo Club International Palm Beach — had been drinking at two Wellington watering holes.
After the crash, Goodman left the scene, and three hours later his blood-alcohol level was measured at .177 percent, more than twice the legal limit.
Goodman recently reached a $40 million settlement in a wrongful-death suit filed by Wilson’s parents, William and Lili Wilson, who will receive an additional $6 million in a separate settlement with one of the bars where Goodman was drinking.
Scott Smith, a civil attorney for William Wilson, attended every day of the trial as well as Monday’s hearing. Smith said he was confident the jury verdict would stand, and that Goodman is playing a “blame game.”
“We’ve seen no remorse, no compassion, no sympathy,” he said. “We’ve seen excuse, after excuse, after excuse. There is no accountability.”
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