Judge Overturns DUI Manslaughter Conviction

May 6, 2013

A Palm Beach County Circuit Court judge overturned a DUI manslaughter conviction as a result of juror misconduct. In 2012, Jon Goodman, a well-known multi-millionaire, was convicted after a jury trial of DUI manslaughter. The victim in the case, Scott Wilson, was a University of Central Florida graduate that was residing in Palm, Beach County at the time of his death. Roy Black, a well-known Miami criminal defense lawyer, took the lead in the case. Despite a creative defense, his client was convicted of DUI manslaughter.

It is alleged that Goodman left the International Polo Club after consuming numerous alcoholic beverages. After leaving the club, Goodman's Bentley crashed into Wilson's Hyundai, causing the vehicle to enter a drainage canal. Smith ultimately died as a result of drowning. Criminal investigators determined that Goodman's blood alcohol level was twice the legal limit of .08 in the State of Florida. Traffic crash re-constructionists determined that Goodman's vehicle ran a stop sign and then crashed into Smith vehicle. Goodman was charged with DUI manslaughter and vehicular homicide and assorted other offenses.

At some point after the conviction, the criminal attorneys representing Goodman became aware of juror misconduct. One of the jurors, Dennis DeMartin was involved in at least two instances of misconduct. First, he deliberately failed to disclose during jury selection that his wife had been previously arrested for driving under the influence (DUI). Secondly, he conducted a unauthorized alcohol consumption experiment in his own home during the pendency of the jury trial. That was enough for the circuit court judge who presided over the trial to grant Goodman a new trial. Judge Jeffrey Colbath stated, "The cumulative affects of DeMartin's antics transformed an imperfect but fair trial into a constitutionally impermissible proceeding. Every person charged with a crime deserves a fair trial with out the likes of Dennis DeMartin. To allow this conviction to stand...would erode the integrity of the legal system."

The victim's parents are disappointed with the overturning of the conviction, but have vowed to continue the pursuit of justice and prosecute the person allegedly responsible for their son's death. Despite the judge's ruling, prosecutors have a good shot at a second trial if a plea deal is not reached. As a high-profile media case with victim's that are dedicated to the cause, it is highly unlikely that a reasonable plea offer will extended to Goodman. Unless, there is a evidentiary problem with case, a second trial is certainly in the cards.

DUI manslaughter is obviously the most serious criminal traffic offense in the State of Florida. To prove the offense, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that (1) a defendant was in actual physical control of the motor vehicle, (2) while in control of the vehicle, the defendant was under the influence of alcohol to the extent that his or her normal faculties were impaired or that the blood or breath alcohol level was .08 or more, and (3) the defendant's operation of the vehicle caused or contributed to death of the victim. DUI manslaughter is a second degree felony punishable up to 15 years in prison.

Palm Beach Polo Mogul's Conviction Overturned, Huffington Post.com, May 4, 2013.