Potential juror is jailed over Internet research on billionaire's DUI manslaughter case
A potential juror in billionaire John Goodman’s high-profile drunken-driving manslaughter case was jailed for contempt of court Thursday after telling another member of the jury pool that the Florida trial now getting underway is a retrial.
Under questioning by Palm Beach County Chief Circuit Court Judge Jeffrey Colbath and attorneys, the would-be juror, Travis Van Vliet, 23, admitted he had done an Internet search for the word “sequester” and saw a headline about the earlier Goodman trial. It appears Van Vliet may have Googled the case, according to the Palm Beach Post and the Sun Sentinel.
Arraigned Friday on the misdemeanor criminal contempt charge, Van Vliet pleaded not guilty and apologized, WPBF reports. However, outside the courthouse, when asked by reporters if he was sorry, he replied: “Sorry? For what?”
Goodman’s conviction and 16-year sentence in the earlier DUI and manslaughter trial were overturned because of juror misconduct. The juror then at issue, Dennis DeMartin, was sentenced to almost six months in jail by Colbath for failing to disclose during jury selection that his ex-wife had been arrested for drunken driving, and for conducting a vodka-drinking test at home during deliberations in the case.
DeMartin’s self-published book about the trial brought his conduct to light.
Van Vliet got into hot water after a defense lawyer’s assistant heard him commenting about the retrial, and the judge was informed, the Sun Sentinel reports.
Under questioning on Thursday, Van Vliet seemed reluctant to explain exactly how he learned of the earlier Goodman trial.
“Do you want to go out the front door of this courthouse or do you want to go out the back door is what I’m asking you,” Colbath told him at one point. “The way for you to have the keys out the front door is for you to be honest with me. … If you’re going to try to skate around my questions, that’s going to encourage some wrath.”
Meanwhile, jury selection was completed Thursday. The jury will be sequestered for the trial, which begins Saturday.
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