Jurors in polo tycoon John Goodman's manslaughter trial began deliberations this afternoon following final arguments about whether Goodman drank potent "Irish car bombs" and "mind eraser" cocktails the night he plowed into Scott Wilson's car.
Goodman, 48, is charged with one count of DUI manslaughter and failure to render aid and one count of vehicular homicide manslaughter and failure to give aid. If convicted he could be sentenced to 30 years in prison.
His Bentley slammed into Wilson's Hyundai and sent it into a nearby canal in Wellington, Fla., in February 2010. Wilson, a 23-year-old engineering graduate, was still strapped into the driver's seat and drowned.
The jury spent about 20 minutes deliberating this evening before breaking for the night. They will resume on Friday.
The multi-millionaire founder of the International Polo Club Palm Beach has denied being drunk at the time of the crash that killed Wilson, but other testimony have contradicted his denial. His blood alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit three hours after the crash.
"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 on Wednesday, he denied drinking the powerful drinks known as Irish car bombs and mind erasers, which defense attorney Roy Black reiterated in his closing arguments.
"At the White Horse Tavern, there are five eyewitnesses. The eyewitnesses unanimously say John Goodman had one drink. Unanimously," Black said.
The defense argues that Goodman's blood alcohol level was high because after the accident, he stumbled to a nearby barn where he tried to call for help and drank from a bottle of liquor he found there to ease the pain from a broken wrist, fractured chest and back injuries.
"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."
In her rebuttal, prosecutor Ellen Roberts dissected what she described as the implausibility of Goodman's account of what he did after the accident and emphasized what she said prosecutors have proven.
"The state has shown you beyond a reasonable doubt that he drove under the influence of alcohol, he plowed through that stop sign, pushed that little car into the canal and let that boy drown and ran away," Roberts said.
"Is he a bad person? No. But he must be held accountable for that young man's death," she said.
Over the past two-and-a-half weeks, jurors have listened to testimony from police authorities, medical experts, car companies, people who were with Goodman the night of the accident and Goodman himself.
Goodman has already settled a civil suit over the crash after adopting his 42-year-old girlfriend to help protect his estate.