Florida Polo Tycoon John Goodman Denied First Motion For New Trial

PHOTO: John Goodman sits in the courtroom during his DUI manslaughter trial, March, 22, 2012, in West Palm Beach, Fla.PlayLannis Waters/The Palm Beach Post/AP Photo
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A Florida judge denied polo tycoon John Goodman's first motion for a new trial today, but has not yet decided on a second request for a new trial, which hinges on a juror saying that he conducted an at-home drinking experiment related to the trial, during deliberations.

Goodman's Bentley slammed into Scott Wilson's Hyundai and sent it into a nearby canal in Wellington, Fla., in February 2010. Wilson, a 23-year-old engineering graduate, was strapped into the driver's seat and drowned.

A Florida jury found Goodman guilty of DUI manslaughter and vehicular homicide in March. He could face up to 30 years in prison.

Goodman's defense team had filed a motion for a new trial based on alleged juror misconduct in April.

An alternate juror, Ruby Delano, reported the alleged instances of misconduct to Goodman's lawyers, saying "it was clear" to her the jurors had made up their minds before the end of the trial.

The court conducted interviews with all eight jurors from the case—six jurors who served and two alternates—before ruling today that there was no misconduct.

"Based on the testimony of the jurors during the juror interviews, each of which was conducted individually and out of the presence of the other jurors, this Court finds that no improper pre-deliberations took place," Florida Circuit Judge Jeffrey Colbath wrote in his decision.

Colbath wrote that only one juror who deliberated, Michael St. John, said that he felt jurors had made up their mind before deliberations. But Colbath decided that St. John's comments were not enough for a misconduct ruling.

"To allow such decisions to be attacked months or even years after the close of a case simply because a juror experiences post-verdict regret would open our trial system to a virtual onslaught of attacks from dissatisfied parties and jurors," Colbath wrote.

Goodman, the multi-millionaire founder of the International Polo Club Palm Beach, claimed in court that his $200,000 car malfunctioned and lurched forward. He has also denied being drunk at the time of the crash that killed Wilson, although other testimony has contradicted him and his blood alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit three hours after the crash, according to prosecutors.

Goodman fled the scene of the accident, authorities said.

On Friday, Goodman's defense team filed another motion for a new trial, this time based on a 33-page book written and published by juror Dennis DeMartin. The book is available on Amazon.com for $9.99. It is number 107,780 on the best sellers list.

The book is called "Believing in the Truth" and attorneys say DeMartin "engaged in blatantly improper and thoroughly disabling conduct" by writing about a trial-related drinking experiment he said he conducted while in the midst of jury deliberations, according to the motion for a new trial.

"It was bothering me that if there was proof that if Mr. Goodman only had 3 or 4 drinks, how drunk would he be? How drunk would I be? I decided to see," DeMartin wrote. A copy of the book's text was submitted as evidence with the motion for a new trial.

DeMartin drank three vodka tonics over the course of an hour and went out in his apartment complex for a walk. He said he was "so confused" that he eventually went home and went to bed. He wrote that he was relieved when he woke up the next morning.

"The question in my mind the night before was answered to me," he wrote. "Even if a person is not drunk, 3 or 4 drinks would make it impossible to operate a vehicle. I got dressed and was in a fine frame of mind to go to deliberate the evidence we had."

Defense attorneys are calling for a new trial based on DeMartin having admitted that he conducted the experiment in violation of court rules.

"He decided to make himself a character in his narrative by conducting an unregulated, extrajudicial experiment about how three drinks would affect his mental state, obviously under the scientifically invalid—and legally impermissible—assumption that the same amount of alcohol would have had the identical effect on Mr. Goodman," defense attorneys wrote.

Court transcripts show at least two instances when jurors were told they were prohibited from conducting any of their own research or investigating.

"Jurors must decide the case only on the evidence presented in the courtroom," according to their instructions.

Defense attorneys wrote in the motion that they would begin contacting the jury members on Wednesday to investigate how DeMartin's book might have influenced deliberations.