The only way Wellington polo club founder John Goodman’s retrial will happen outside Palm Beach County is if attorneys trying the case fail to find enough fair local jurors at the start of his trial next year.
That was the one concession Chief Circuit Judge Jeffrey Colbath made to Goodman’s defense team Friday as he denied its request to move the case because of the extensive publicity surrounding Goodman’s arrest, first trial and appeal of the case surrounding the death of 23-year-old Scott Patrick Wilson.
A Palm Beach County jury convicted Goodman and he was sentenced to 16 years in prison, but Colbath overturned the verdict in May because of juror misconduct.
In denying Goodman’s motion for a change of venue, Colbath repeated the ruling he made against Goodman’s previous set of lawyers before his first trial, when they argued that a “media blitzkrieg” surrounding the polo mogul had stoked a wealth bias that made it impossible for him to find a pool of untainted jurors.
Colbath’s decision came after he heard arguments from Goodman defense attorney Douglas Duncan, who tried to refute prosecutors’ assertions in court records that the media and the community were over the Goodman case.
“Respectfully, there hasn’t been any fatigue,” Duncan said, later adding: “There’s no reasonable expectation that the media attention in this case will diminish.”
Chief Assistant State Attorney Alan Johnson responded Friday by telling Colbath a venue change was premature. If the attorneys find they can’t pick a jury in Palm Beach County, they then could try to move the trial, Johnson suggested. Colbath agreed.
One thing everyone agreed on in Friday’s short hearing was that if a fair jury panel is unattainable in Palm Beach County, Colbath will preside over the case elsewhere as opposed to picking a panel from another city and busing them into Palm Beach County.
Attorneys in the case batted around several alternate cities if the trial had to move out of Palm Beach County. While Duncan named Naples, Tampa and Ocala as possible alternatives, Johnson thought Orlando or Jacksonville might be better areas. Colbath appeared to agree with Johnson, listing Jacksonville first.
Friday’s hearing also brought with it the first official court appearance on the case for Elizabeth Parker, a former prosecutor who is now of the newest member of Goodman’s reassembled legal team.
Before her departure from the State Attorney’s Office in 2011, Parker was the lead prosecutor against Boynton Beach newlywed Dalia Dippolito, who a jury convicted of trying to hire a hitman to kill her husband. Colbath, who presided over that case as well, sentenced Dippolito to 20 years in prison.
Dippolito, like Goodman, was released on house arrest as she appeals her conviction.
Goodman is expected to appear in court again Oct. 23, when lawyers will tackle issues related to prosecutors’ release of Goodman’s Bentley from evidence after he was sentenced — a fact Goodman’s new legal team only discovered last month. Goodman’s defense team is scheduled to interview former Goodman lead prosecutor Ellen Roberts and Deputy Troy Snelgrove, the lead investigator on the case, on Oct. 21.