WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Just a few days before the start of the DUI manslaughter trial against John Goodman, sources say the Wellington polo mogul reached a settlement in the wrongful death civil suit with his alleged victim's parents.
Was the timing of the settlement on purpose?
A monetary agreement in the civil lawsuit was reached this past week, but word of the settlement may have given defense attorneys an advantage if they knew about it before questioning jurors.
March was shaping up to be a legal nightmare for millionaire John Goodman. The polo giant was facing two trials for what allegedly happened one February night two years ago.
Both criminal and civil trials were scheduled this month against Goodman for allegedly driving drunk and killing 23-year-old Scott Wilson. Wilson's car careened into a Wellington canal where he drowned.
Now, Goodman faces only a criminal DUI manslaughter trial, the civil wrongful death suit was settled out of court. The settlement didn't leak until after a six-member jury was already seated in the criminal trial against him.
"I think the settlement remained confidential because the parties didn't want it to taint the jury-selection process, this would've been another area of inquiry with these potential jurors," says NewsChannel 5 Legal Analyst Michelle Suskauer.
Suskauer says the news may also have given an advantage to the defense.
"There could be less sympathy toward the victim if they knew the family received a monetary settlement and a large monetary settlement," says Suskauer.
The amount of the settlement is confidential, although some speculate it's upwards of $10 million.
A statement released by attorneys representing Wilson's parents says they wouldn't comment on the civil matter and quote "their focus is on accountability and justice."
Suskauer says the settlement has nothing to do with the criminal trial, but that it could come into play down the road.
"The only relevance it may have is if Mr. Goodman is convicted, it'll be brought up in the potential sentencing. The court will know there was a civil settlement and the amount."
Copyright 2012 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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