Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Palm Beach Social Diary

Moments before jury selection began Tuesday morning on the 11th floor at the Palm Beach County Courthouse for Houston-Wellington wheeler-dealer John B. Goodman's DUI manslaughter/vehicular homicide criminal case, famed defense attorney Roy Black, left, checks for his latest texts and e-mails as co-defense criminal lawyer Guy Fronstin consoles their client, Mr. Goodman, pictured at right.
Jury selection begins in polo manslaughter case
By Augustus Mayhew

The only thing more unprecedented than John B. Goodman’s recent adoption of his girlfriend as his daughter may have been when his defense lawyer Roy Black married one of his jurors after she found his client William Kennedy Smith not guilty of rape.  But hey, this is Palm Beach County where the improbable, the incredible, and the impossible are commonplace. Before today’s voir dire, Judge Jeff Colbath ruled on several preliminary motions: Hydrocodone use, IN; Cocaine mention, OUT; Kris Kampsen’s bar tab for Mind-Erasers, OUT. 

Yesterday’s holdovers, from the more than 50 potential jurors that began the day, will be joined Wednesday morning by as many as 30 “fresh” prospects who may be among the jury of six of Goodman’s peers deciding whether the 48-year-old South Texas native might be sentenced up to 30 years in prison if convicted. And what could be more ominous for Mr. Goodman’s first day in court than having former Houston pal and protégé, Sir Allen Stanford, for whom Goodman once named the International Polo Club field, convicted of 13 counts of money laundering, obstruction of justice, and fraud in a more than $7 billion offshore Ponzi scheme. With the civil case against Goodman by the victim’s parents set to begin March 27, the criminal case could be sent to the jury by the end of next week. Opening statements could be Thursday.

Here are some snaps from the opening day.
The morning began at 7:55 a.m. when a Chevrolet Suburban with Tennessee license plates dropped off John B. Goodman and his defense team on the west side of the courthouse. Obviously, I arrived a minute too late although I thought I was arriving too early for the 8:30 a.m. hearing.
But first, the defendant and his legal team faced a herd of local television station crews.
On the 11th floor, there was another media contingency awaiting Goodman's arrival.
Jury selection expert Josh Dubin scrutinizes some paperwork before entering the court room. Described on his web site as "one of the preeminent legal strategy consultants in the nation," Mr. Dubin has garnered testimonials from Gerald Lefcourt, Barry Scheck, and Joe Tacopina.
Because of space limitations, and because I was not among the local newscasters who were set up to tweet live, I was ushered down to the fourth-floor media room with a visual-audio feed. Above, my view of John B. Goodman and defense co-consul Mark Shapiro during the jury selection screening.
The affable polished Roy Black questions a potential juror. Other than learning a potential juror's level of media exposure, Mr. Black asked each of them if they had heard about: the STOP sign, the canal, cocaine, hydrocodone, the Bentley, polo, and "the adoption issue." And, of course, what they thought about "rich people." Needless, the lovely lady who said, "Rich people think they can get away with murder," was not selected. My exile to the media room is temporary and once jury selection is completed I have been led to believe I will join the tweeters along the back row of Judge Colbath's court room.
Mr. Goodman approached the bench and listened in on each off-the-record sidebar the judge had with his attorneys.
The state attorneys informed the judge that following jury selection they expect their case to last five days; the defense case, according to Roy Black, will last three days. Above, the entrance to Palm Beach County Courthouse at around 4:00 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon.
Convicted cricket con man and $7 billion Ponzi-schemer Sir Allan Stanford was one of Mr. Goodman's former business protégés. At the International Polo Club of Palm Beach's Stanford Field, Sir Allan held court at C-1, pictured above, a prime center-field box. During the past two years that Stanford was held in a Texas federal prison, most recently claiming to suffer from amnesia, Mr. Goodman has been free on $100,000 bail.
Cathleen O'Toole at the ready to file her story for Channel 25-WPBF. Black magic worked for William Kennedy Smith and Rush Limbaugh; now, can the celebrated defense lawyer do the same for John Goodman? Above, Roy Black.
Photographs by Augustus Mayhew.
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