John Goodman DUI manslaughter trial jury selection begins

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- It was a festive group of a dozen or so people in the Players Club in Wellington that night, buying drinks after spending several hours at a celebrity bartender event for the polo crowd at the White Horse Tavern.

Bartender Cathleen Lewter would recall it was a steady, but not busy, night.

"Everybody was just in a really good mood and just kind of buying everybody shots for each other," she later told a Palm Beach County sheriff's traffic-homicide investigator.

Among those in the bar was John Goodman, 48, an heir to a vast Texas heating and air conditioning fortune, a prominent figure in polo circles who founded the International Polo Club Palm Beach. Minutes after leaving the bar, Goodman's Bentley convertible slammed into the side of a Hyundai driven by a 23-year-old recent engineering graduate.

The force of the impact drove Scott Wilson's car across the intersection of Lake Worth Road and 120 t h Avenue, flipping it upside down into a canal. Wilson drowned, and Goodman was charged with DUI-manslaughter and vehicular homicide.

Beginning Tuesday, prosecutors and Goodman's defense attorneys will dissect the hours leading up to the crash, and the aftermath. Six Palm Beach County residents will be chosen to sit in judgment of Goodman, a jury-selection process that could take several days before the first witness takes the stand.

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NewsChannel 5 is bringing you complete coverage of the John Goodman DUI manslaughter trial and case. By clicking here, you can view the case documents, read the witness interviews, listen to the 911 calls and get the latest information on the criminal trial as it is happening via a LIVE stream.

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The trial pits two fierce litigators against one another, veteran DUI-manslaughter prosecutor Ellen Roberts and famed Miami defense attorney Roy Black, with Goodman's freedom hanging in the balance. He faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted.

Prosecutors and the defense have held their cards close, revealing little about their trial strategies in the high-profile case that has garnered national media attention. Neither side would comment for this story, but sheriff's interviews with some of the people who were with Goodman in the hours leading up to the early morning of Feb. 12, 2010, tell part of the story.

Polo player Kris Kampsen was one of the celebrity bartenders at the fundraiser at the White Horse Tavern, and he later joined Goodman at the Players Club. The fundraiser started about 7 p.m., and Kampsen recalled seeing Goodman for the first time about an hour later, when he made a large donation.

"He reached in his pocket and grabs a bunch of money and threw it in our blue tub and — for charity, and then at that point, he'd thrown so much money in I was like, 'Let me get you a free drink,'" Kampsen told a sheriff's investigator.

The bartending challenge went on for several hours, then dinner was served, Kampsen said. He remembered only giving Goodman a single vodka drink, and didn't recall if Goodman — who sat across from him — drank anything during dinner. "I probably got inebriated," he said.

Goodman opened his tab at the Players Club at 11:23 p.m., according to a copy of his receipt. Lewter, the bartender, said Goodman ordered 10 shots of her best tequila for him and his friends as soon as he walked in.

She said she saw Goodman take that tequila shot and one other. In between, he was sipping on a Grey Goose vodka and soda, she said. In her deposition for the criminal trial, Lewter said Goodman did not appear intoxicated and was acting normal.

Other people bought drinks for the group, but, Lewter said, she did not see Goodman drink those. Kampsen said he bought a round of Irish car bombs — whiskey and Baileys Irish Cream in a shot glass, dropped into a glass of Guiness beer — but didn't remember if Goodman drank one.

Goodman asked to close out his tab at 12:37 a.m. and left, alone, some time after that. The lead sheriff's investigator calculated his Bentley was traveling at 63 mph southbound on 120 t h Avenue when Goodman ran a stop sign and smashed into Wilson's car, traveling west on Lake Worth Road.

Wilson was on his way home to Wellington from Orlando for his sister's 19 t h birthday.

Goodman had driven past his home on 120 t h Avenue. Stacey Shore, the woman who was talking with Goodman before he left, told investigators that she did not leave with Goodman because he had been drinking and wanted to go get cocaine.

The first 911 call came in at 1:01 a.m. from Nicole Ocoro, who was on her way home when she saw the damaged Bentley on the side of the road. "I turned around to go back because it looked really bad and I don't see another car and I don't see anybody," she told the 911 operator. She did not see Wilson's car in the canal, or Goodman.

Goodman had walked about 100 yards down 120 t h Avenue to Kampsen's barn, looking for a phone. That's what Goodman told Kampsen at a dinner not long after the crash, Kampsen

told investigators. Kampsen did not have a phone in the barn, but he had a fully stocked bar in his office. He told investigators he did not know if Goodman drank any of his alcohol.

Goodman went to a trailer next door and woke a young woman, Lisa Pembleton. "He had asked me if I thought that he sounded or acted like he was under the influence, 'cause he said he had drank a few," she told investigators the morning of the crash.

Then Goodman used her cell phone to call his girlfriend in Atlanta, to tell her he had been in a bad accident and didn't know what to do, Pembleton said. She said Goodman described it as "the end-of-the world-accident."

She told him to call 911. Goodman placed that call nearly an hour after the crash. He told the dispatcher he did not know what he hit but that it had to have been a car, and that his cell phone had died.

"Is everybody OK?" Goodman asked the dispatcher twice, before walking to the road to meet a deputy.

Deputies and paramedics smelled alcohol on Goodman when they encountered him. When his blood was drawn at 3:59 a.m. Wellington Regional Medical Center, he had a blood-alcohol level of .177 percent, more than twice the legal limit.

Just how much Goodman had to drink — and when — will be a focal point of the trial. Both sides have blood-alcohol experts and traffic-crash reconstructionists listed as witnesses. The criminal trial could take at least two weeks.

Then, a wrongful-death suit filed by Wilson's parents against Goodman, is set for trial for the end of March.


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