Wellington polo mogul John Goodman loses appeal of DUI manslaughter conviction
Appellate court says International Polo Club founder's rights not violated
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Wellington polo mogul John Goodman has lost his bid for a third trial after he was twice convicted of DUI manslaughter with failure to render aid in a 2010 crash that killed a recent college graduate.
The Fourth District Court of Appeal on Wednesday rejected Goodman's appeal of his 2014 retrial conviction.
Goodman, 53, is serving a 16-year prison sentence in the February 2010 death of Scott Wilson, who had recently graduated from the University of Central Florida.
Wilson, 23, drowned in the early morning of Feb. 12, 2010, after Goodman's Bentley slammed into Wilson's car at a Wellington intersection, sending it plunging into a canal.
Goodman's initial 2012 DUI manslaughter conviction was thrown out because of juror misconduct.
Goodman, who is the founder of the International Polo Club Palm Beach, testified during his second trial that he wasn't intoxicated at the time of the crash, but that the brakes on his Bentley malfunctioned when he tried to stop. He said he lost consciousness after the crash, woke up and couldn't see any other vehicles, so he decided to look for a telephone to call 911. Goodman said he stumbled upon a "man cave" in a polo player's shed that was stocked full of liquor and consumed alcohol after the crash to calm his nerves.
However, evidence during the trial showed that Goodman racked up a bar tab of about $272 in the hours before the crash, and his blood-alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit.
The appellate court wrote in its decision that Goodman's due-process rights were not violated when the state released his Bentley prior to the second trial. The judges also wrote that deputies did not violate Goodman's Fourth Amendment rights when they collected a blood sample from him in the hours after the crash without a warrant.
Goodman's appeal argued that the court erred in instructing the jury that an element of the failure to render aid enhancement was that Goodman "knew or should have known that the accident resulted in injury or death."
"The statutes, however, merely require that the person 'knew or should have known of the crash,' not the injury," the judges said in their decision.
There may still be some relief for Goodman, who is challenging the results of his blood draw on the basis that Florida Department of Law Enforcement rules "are insufficient to ensure scientific reliability." The appellate judges did not rule on this issue, which is the subject of a separate appeal.
The Florida Supreme Court will hear arguments on the issue in August.
Although the court withheld adjudication and sentencing Goodman of vehicular homicide with failure to render aid pending the outcome of Goodman's appeal, the appellate judges ruled that doing so is a violation of double jeopardy and directed the court to vacate the conviction on remand.
"A conviction for DUI manslaughter and for vehicular homicide involving a single victim violates double jeopardy," the judges said in their decision.
Goodman is currently incarcerated at the Wakulla Correctional Institution in north Florida. His scheduled release date is in 2029.
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