Trial experts explain two-year wait time in Wellington DUI manslaughter trial involving John Goodman

Attorney says witnesses, penalty slow down process

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - A trial date has been set in the DUI manslaughter trial involving Wellington polo mogul John Goodman.

Flanked by his lawyers, Goodman appeared before a Palm Beach County judge learning March 6th would be the day he would see trial.

"We're prepared. Judgment day is approaching," said Scott Smith, the civil defense attorney representing the victim's family.

Goodman is being charged with DUI manslaughter for allegedly knocking Scott Wilson's car into a canal in Wellington on February of 2010. The 23-year-old driver drowned as a result.

Wilson's mother, Lili Wilson, was asked for comment on Friday after the trial date was set, but kept quiet.

"I'm going to stay quiet today, thank you," said Wilson.

The trial is set to start more than two years after the incident happened, prompting some to question why court has not started sooner.

"It has really nothing to do with the fact who John Goodman is. That fact is, this is a complex case," said Michelle Suskauer, a criminal defense attorney who has experience in DUI manslaughter cases.

Suskauer said in the Goodman case and others like it, it can take years to go to trial because there are so many witnesses to coordinate.  She said the judge and lawyers involved also take extra time preparing,  considering the potential heavy penalty of a DUI manslaughter charge.

"Is it a long time? Yeah, it's been a while and the case it set fairly soon," said Suskauer.

Assistant state attorney Ellen Roberts, who spoke in general about DUI manslaughter cases, said two years of waiting is actually a lot shorter than the average time. Roberts said it usually takes three years for similar trials to begin.

"It's hard for the family because they've lost a loved one and they haven't seen any justice come from this yet," said Roberts.

Roberts said depending out the outcome, any subsequent appeals can also lengthen the process.

Goodman's lawyers have also requested a change of venue given the attention of the trial. Circuit Judge Jeffrey Colbath did not rule on that matter.

Some legal experts predict the trial will stay in Palm Beach County and start at the time set.

A civil trial date was set for March 27th.

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