The mustachioed man in the suit and golden tie Friday was hardly recognizable as Dennis DeMartin, the 70-year-old retired Delray Beach accountant now charged with single-handedly destroying the DUI manslaughter conviction against polo mogul John Goodman.
Gone were the button-down cotton shirts, khakis and clean shaves the former juror wore when the drinking experiments and omissions of DUI in the family were just a matter of question for a judge and attorneys arguing over whether juror misconduct had robbed Goodman of a fair trial.
Now DeMartin’s behavior was the subject of criminal contempt charges, ones that could potentially send him to jail next week. So both his attire and subdued demeanor seemed to match Friday’s last preliminary hearing in the case, as the judge and defense attorneys in the case sparred verbally and new allegations surfaced on whether or not DeMartin is even mentally fit to assist in his own defense.
“No, I don’t have anything to say,” the normally verbose DeMartin said on his way out of court Friday, almost hiding behind his attorney Joseph Walsh, who along with Robert Gershman are representing him for free.
DeMartin sat in the court gallery, away from the lawyers as they dropped on Colbath the latest in a flurry of requests they’ve filed ahead of his trial, which is scheduled for Monday.
Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Jeffrey Colbath listened to arguments from Walsh and Chief Assistant State Attorney Alan Johnson regarding whether or not the statements DeMartin made in three post-trial interviews should be used against him in his contempt case. In those three hearing, Demartin took the witness stand and told the judge what he’s already written in two of three self-published books since the March 2012 trial.
Among his revelations were that he conducted, against Colbath’s orders, a drinking experiment to test claims of Goodman’s impairment the night before he and the other jurors began deliberations in the case. He also disclosed in his third book that his ex-wife had once been arrested for DUI — something he’d failed to tell the court when he was a prospective juror. DeMartin attributed the errors to lingering memory problems linked to a pair of strokes he suffered decades ago.
On Friday, Walsh told Colbath that DeMartin’s statements should be cloaked in immunity because they were necessary to preserve Goodman’s rights to a fair trial. He added that the statements should be inadmissible because no one advised DeMartin that the statements could be used against him criminally.
Johnson, who called DeMartin’s actions “an affront to the court, and an affront to our system of justice,” said the statements were indeed admissible because DeMartin wasn’t in law-enforcement custody.
Colbath said he would take the arguments under advisement and issue a ruling before the trial Monday. But it took him much less time to rule on a renewed motion to get him off the case Friday, after a tense exchange with Gershman.
The judge blasted Gershman and Walsh for waiting until Friday to ask him to have doctors evaluate DeMartin to see if he is mentally fit to help them with his defense.
“You filed the motion to have me recused from the case pretty quickly, so why did this one take so long?” Colbath asked, referencing a filing last week where Gershman and Walsh accused Colbath of having a personal bias against DeMartin.
Colbath called the move unprofessional. Gershman responded by immediately renewing his motion to have Colbath off the case.
“Would you like to put that in writing?” Colbath asked.
Gershman said he did, and asked to turn it in on Monday. But the judge told him he had just 20 minutes to make a handwritten request.
Colbath took a brief recess so Gershman could write out the request, then came back to the bench and unceremoniously denied it. He had denied the first request in writing earlier Friday.
While the final hearing in DeMartin’s case is still scheduled for Monday, Gershman and Walsh are still waiting to hear back from the 4th District Court of Appeal regarding two requests they’ve made in hopes of halting the proceedings.
Walsh, after Friday’s hearing, also hinted that he and Gershman will file new paperwork Monday detailing their reasons why they believe DeMartin might not be mentally fit for trial.
In the meantime, DeMartin could face up to six months in jail if Colbath convicts him on the contempt charge.
Goodman’s new trial is expected to begin early next year.