The defense for polo mogul/Houston millionaire John Goodman presented its first witnesses in his DUI manslaughter case on Friday, including an internationally famous polo player and model.
The prosecution's case was postponed briefly while Argentine polo celebrity Ignacio "Nacho" Figueras and polo horse trainer Marcos DaSilva took the witness stand for the defense, since both men will be out of Florida next week when they were originally scheduled to testify.
Figueres, who models for Ralph Lauren and has been called "the David Beckham of polo," was a celebrity bartender at the charity event that John Goodman attended on the night of Feb. 20, 2010. Goodman is on trial for causing an accident that killed 23-year-old Scott Wilson after attending the charity event and drinking at another bar. Goodman's blood alcohol content was double the legal limit when taken three hours after the crash, but his lawyers claim that Goodman was not intoxicated at the time of the accident and that crash was caused by a malfunction in his Bentley.
On cross-examination, Figueras describes Goodman as "my patron, my friend," and confirms that Goodman had paid him $120,000 to play polo on his team.
Figueras testified that he did not serve Goodman any drinks at the charity event, nor did he see him consume any drinks, adding that Goodman seemed fine and not impaired at the time he left the White Horse Tavern.
On cross-examination, Figueras describes Goodman as "my patron, my friend," and confirms that Goodman had paid him $120,000 to play polo on his team. He also says that he served 50 or 100 people drinks at the event and admits that he doesn't remember whether others, including fellow polo player and witness Kris Kampen, were intoxicated.
Testifying before Figueras, DaSilva testified about what he heard the night of the accident. DaSilva was living in the barn belonging to Kris Kampen that Goodman says he walked to and consumed alcohol at before using the phone of Lisa Pendleton to call 9-1-1 an hour after the accident.
DaSilva testified that he heard noises the night of the accident before investigators woke him up at 3:30 a.m. but did not get up because he thought it was the horses next door. The lights and television in the office were off when he went to bed but on when he got up in the morning, said DaSilva, but when pressed by prosecutor Ellen Roberts he says the noises came around 2 a.m., when Goodman was in Pendleton's trailer.
The prosecution continued to press its case in the fourth day of testimony. Witnesses included the nurse who treated Goodman and drew his blood at the hopital after the crash, as well as Tate Yeatman, a forensic toxicologist. With the blood alcohol levels shown in the tests, Yeatman says that using "retrograde extrapolation" he can estimate that Goodman had about 12 or 13 drinks in his system (and a BAC of .207 to .237) at the time of the crash, caused by consuming 16 to 18 drinks over the course of the evening.
Yeatman also tells the jury for the first time that Goodman had a small amount of hydrocodone in his bloodstream, which could have had an "additive effect" on the alcohol in Goodman's system.
On cross examination, Yeatman is presented with a hypothetical situation in which Goodman only had four drinks throughout the evening — the number that witnesses have testified they served him. Yeatman says if that was the case that Goodman would have had a BAC of just over .04, below the legal limit, when he was in the accident and would have had to drink approximately half a handle of liquor (approximately half a gallon) after the crash to increase his BAC to the levels that were tested.
But the evidence most harmful to Goodman's case might have come from sheriff's deputy Robert Stephan. Stephan traced a set of boot prints from the site of the accident, which zig-zagged back and forth across the road, leading to the gravel driveway in front of Pendleton's trailer. Stephan said that there were no boot marks in the canal, and after defense attorneys asked him if he checked for boot prints past the trailer near the site of Kampen's barn, he said that in the darkness he couldn't even see the barn.
This testimony comes a day after jurors left the courtroom to see the cars involved in the accident. Goodman's Bentley shows damage in the front, but the Hyundai that Wilson was driving is smashed practically in half, with damage from the front all the way to the rear wheel on the right side. On Thursday jurors also listened to Goodman's 9-1-1 call, and heard Palm Beach County Deputy Sheriff Troy Snelgrove testify that it was obvious from the crash site that Goodman had driven through the stop sign before hitting Wilson.
The prosecution has put on a strong case so far, but we'll see what happens when the defense presents its case next week.