Taking the Stand
In an unexpected move, Houston-raised multimillionaire John Goodman took the stand in his own defense Wednesday in Palm Beach.
Goodman's trial for DUI manslaughter, vehicular homicide and leaving the scene of a crash has become national news, first when he adopted his girlfriend and later as celebrity polo players including Kris Kampen and Nacho Figueras took the stand.
According to Goodman, he was on his way to Wendy's for a Frosty when his Bentley malfunctioned at the intersection in which the accident took place.
Charges stem from the night of Feb. 11, 2010, when Goodman left a celebrity bartending charity event and later sped through a stop sign in the Palm Beach suburb of Wellington, hitting the car of 23-year-old Scott Wilson and sending it into a nearby canal, where Wilson drowned. Goodman did not render aid at the accident and did not call 911 for more than an hour.
Goodman testified that he'd had four drinks the evening of the accident: a vodka tonic at a charity event at the White Horse Tavern and then two shots of tequila and a shot of Grey Goose vodka at the Players Club. According to Goodman, he was on his way to Wendy's for a Frosty when his Bentley malfunctioned at the intersection in which the accident took place.
(Another witness, Stacy Shore, said in a deposition that Goodman told her he wanted to go get some cocaine but her testimony was deemed too prejudicial.)
"I was traveling down Lake Worth Road and I began to apply my brakes, and the car did not seem to be stopping as easily as I was used to and so I continued to apply the brakes and I came, you know I slowed before the stop sign, well before the stop sign, and I took my foot of the brake. Um, that's the last thing I remember," Goodman said from the stand in a slow and halting tone.
Goodman testified that he saw a light in the barn belonging to Kris Kampen and went inside looking for a phone. It was there Goodman claims he drank heavily, attempting to ease his "excruciating" pain from the accident, including a broken wrist and fractured spine.
On cross-examination, prosecutor Ellen Roberts challenged Goodman on his assertion that he didn't know that he'd hit another car. Quoting from Goodman's 911 call, Roberts read aloud: "I must be in big trouble, huh . . . I just didn't see that car coming."
The jury also heard from two car experts on Friday. Engineer Luka Serdar testified for the defense that Goodman's Bentley had a diagnostic trouble code that indicated the Bentley's two throttles were not working in unison and that the problem may have "contributed" to the crash, though he admitted under the prosecution's questioning that it would not have affected braking or caused a sudden acceleration, just a delay in response.
The prosecution also called a rebuttal witness, automotive consultant Thomas Livernois, who contends that the throttle issues were tested after the crash and probably were caused by the crash.
Closing arguments are scheduled for Thursday.