During a brief hearing on Friday, Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Jeffrey Colbath sentenced former Delray Beach resident Dennis DeMartin to 37 days in jail — the time the 72-year-old has already served — and sent him home to hopefully live the rest of his life in obscurity. He could have ordered DeMartin back to jail to complete a five-month, 29-day sentence.
» RELATED: Full coverage of the John Goodman case
“Thank God it’s over with,” a tearful DeMartin said as he was led from the courtroom by his son. “It’s been a terrible five years. I’m so happy it’s over with.”
At the hearing, DeMartin, who conducted a drinking experiment to discover for himself whether Goodman was drunk in the 2010 crash that killed 23-year-old Scott Wilson and lied about an ex-wife’s DUI arrest, apologized for his actions. He revealed his misdeed in a series self-published books.
“Simply put, this was a terrible tragedy I caused by being a juror on this case,” he told Colbath, his hands shaking as he read a prepared statement. “I should never have been a juror. I was not a good juror.”
He concluded: “I feel sincerely sorry for what happened.”
Colbath accepted DeMartin’s apology. “I think you finally get it,” Colbath said.
But, before letting DeMartin return to Connecticut where he lives in a government-subsidized apartment, the judge gave him a stern lecture.
“Maybe you don’t have a full appreciation of the carnage you caused the system,” he said.
DeMartin’s actions forced Colbath to throw out Goodman’s conviction and 16-year prison sentence. Fearing he couldn’t find jurors in Palm Beach County who hadn’t read about the case that snared national headlines, Colbath went to Tampa to pick jurors for the second trial in 2014. Those jurors were sequestered at the PGA National Resort during the roughly three-week trial, costing taxpayers about $54,000. Goodman was ultimately convicted a second time and handed the same sentence.
“I haven’t put a fine point to it but I’m confident (the cost) was in the hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Colbath said. “It was a huge undertaking because you refused to follow simple directions.”
But, he said, given DeMartin’s failing health, “I am persuaded you would be a burden on our criminal justice system.”
DeMartin was released from jail while the 4th District Court of Appeal considered whether Colbath’s sentence was appropriate. The appeals court recently upheld it, prompting Friday’s hearing.
In addition to citing DeMartin’s health problems, his attorney Paul Petillo pointed out that the six-month term far exceeded an eight-day sentence Palm Beach Circuit Judge Krista Marx handed another misbehaving juror last week.
Philip Elliott, who was released Thursday, said he encouraged a fellow juror to lie about what jurors did during a trial to help her overturn a first-degree murder conviction. Elliott, who said he was smitten by the female juror, forced Marx to order a third trial for Victor Salastier Diaz for his role in the shooting death of a bystander in the 2007 robbery of Three Amigos market in suburban Boynton Beach.
Colbath made no reference to Marx’s decision, instead focusing on the cost DeMartin heaped on the court system and the added grief he caused Wilson’s family.
Colbath said he had only one regret: “If you were a man of means I’d figure out a way to make you pay” for the costs of trying Goodman a second time, he said.