John Goodman loses last pending appeal in DUI manslaughter case


More than three years after Wellington polo mogul John Goodman was convicted for a second time of DUI manslaughter in the 2010 crash that killed 23-year-old Scott Wilson, the Florida Supreme Court late Friday rejected his final pending appeal.

In a one-sentence order, the state’s high court said it wasn’t going to consider Goodman’s claims that the West Palm Beach-based 4th District Court of Appeal erred in October when it upheld his conviction and 16-year prison sentence.

“It is ordered that the petition for review is denied,” wrote the court that has wide latitude to decide which cases it will consider.

The high court’s decision came weeks after it rejected Goodman’s claims that his conviction should be thrown out because of the way his blood was drawn after the alcohol-fueled crash in Wellington that claimed the engineering graduate’s life.

The founder of the International Polo Club claimed the use of a small-diameter needle to draw his blood and lax procedures at a lab falsely elevated his blood-alcohol level to 0.177 percent — more than twice the level at which Florida drivers are by law considered impaired. Justices ruled that the procedures established by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement are sufficient to protect against false readings.

With his direct appeals exhausted, like other inmates, Goodman could seek a new trial by claiming his top-flight legal team was incompetent. Or, in what attorneys describe as a move that is rarely successful, he could ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review the Florida Supreme Court’s refusal to consider his latest appeal.

“I’m not saying his hopes are completely squashed, but his chances are extremely unlikely,” said one attorney, who asked not to be identified.

The 54-year-old heir to a Texas heating and air conditioning fortune has repeatedly shown that he doesn’t go down without a drawn-out fight. The case snared international headlines when he adopted his then-girlfriend to protect his millions from Wilson’s parents, who filed a wrongful death lawsuit against him.

The adoption was later thrown out, and Goodman ultimately agreed to pay William and Lili Wilson $46 million to settle the lawsuit.

One of the main claims in his latest appeal was that his defense was hampered during his 2014 trial because, prior to the second trial, state prosecutors destroyed the Bentley he was driving in the fatal crash. At both trials he claimed the $250,000 car spontaneously accelerated, leaving him powerless to stop it from slamming into Scott Wilson’s car, shoving it into a canal where the young man drowned.

The destruction of the Bentley between his first and second trial meant his automotive experts couldn’t examine it and jurors couldn’t see it, he claimed. In rejecting his assertions, the appeals court noted that Goodman was convicted of the same charge in 2012 when the Bentley was available. It also rejected his claims that his sentence was too severe because the jury convicted him of failing to render aid to Wilson.

Goodman’s first conviction was overturned due to jury misconduct. In a self-published book, one of the jurors described conducting his own drinking experiment to determine if Goodman had been intoxicated on the night of the crash. The second trial produced the same verdict and prison sentence.

Goodman is being held in the Wakulla Correctional Institution south of Tallahassee. His expected release date is June 7, 2029, according to the Florida Department of Corrections.



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