John Goodman’s defense team questioned jurors with the Court’s permission yesterday, and one juror said that he wasn’t convinced of Goodman’s guilt. Juror Michael St. John said that he was pressured by other jurors to find Goodman guilty of DUI manslaughter.
At the conclusion of the trial, the jurors were polled. This means that each individual juror is asked if the verdict that the jury returned was his true and correct verdict. This would give a juror who is not truly sure an opportunity to express his concern. But instead, after returning the guilty verdict, upon being polled, St. John said that guilty was his verdict. Now, he seems to be changing his tune. Or at least indicating some regret.
Goodman’s lead defense attorney, Roy Black, said that St. John’s testimony indicates that Goodman couldn’t get a fair trial in Palm Beach County. Black has petitioned the Court for a change of venue prior to the start of the trial but Circuit Judge Jeffrey Colbath denied the motion to move the trial out of the county. Now, this may be the very issue that Goodman uses to try to get a new trial on appeal.
According to Rule 910.03 of the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure, criminal trials are generally supposed to be tried in the county in which the crime was committed. However, if the Court finds that a fair and impartial jury can’t be impaneled in the county where the offense occurred, then the court may select a jury from another county. If this occurs, then the new county of venue is supposed to closely resemble the demographic composition of the original county of venue, in this case, Palm Beach County.
Prior to the trial, defense attorney Roy Black argued that the case should be moved to Miami Dade County.
When a trial court rules on a motion for a change of venue, there are two factors to consider: (1) the extent and nature of any pretrial publicity, and (2) the difficulty in actually picking a jury in that county. The trial court’s ruling is discretionary and on appeal, it will not be reversed unless there was an abuse of discretion. According to the Florida Supreme Court in the case of Griffin v. State, 866 So.2d 1 (2003), “[t]he test for determining whether to grant a change of venue is whether the inhabitants of a community are so infected by knowledge of the incident and accompanying prejudice, bias, and preconceived opinions that jurors could not possibly put these matters out of their minds and try the case solely on the evidence presented in the courtroom.”
In Goodman’s case, even if he can establish that the court abused its discretion and that the pretrial publicity in Palm Beach County was so extensive and prejudicial to Goodman, it will be hard for the defense to challenge the second consideration. Goodman’s defense attorneys seemed to have little difficulty in picking a jury in Palm Beach County. In fact, they didn’t even use all of their jury strikes before the jury was successfully empaneled. This fact may make a venue challenge more difficult.
Goodman may still seek an appeal on the basis of the jury misconduct in and of itself – that he did not in fact receive a fair trial. But this is unlikely to win him a new trial given that the juror did say after returning the verdict that it was his verdict. Jurors who change their mind or feel guilty after rendering an opinion don’t entitle someone to a new trial.