John Goodman juror Dennis DeMartin’s case could be headed to high court

(Palm Beach Post staff file photo)

(Palm Beach Post staff file photo)

The case of the wayward juror held responsible for forcing a judge to throw out John Goodman’s DUI manslaughter conviction could soon be a matter for Florida’s Supreme Court.

Last week, on the heels of a 4th District Court of Appeal ruling affirming Dennis DeMartin’s contempt of court conviction and six month jail sentence, his lawyer filed a request to for them to send the case to Florida’s high court to address an issue the appellate court left unanswered.

“May a court sentence a defendant more harshly in order to ‘send a message’ to the community?” Assistant Public Defender Paul Petillo wants to ask the Supreme Court.

The question has been the center of the retired accountant’s appeal since January 2014, when Chief Circuit Judge Jeffrey Colbath sentenced the retired accountant to five months and 29 days in the Palm Beach County jail for a pair of missteps DeMartin had as a juror on the 2012 panel that convicted Goodman in the Feb. 12, 2010 death of Scott Patrick Wilson.

In two separate self-published books, DeMartin revealed he conducted his own, forbidden drinking experiment in the night before he and jurors began deliberating Goodman’s case and later disclosed that his ex-wife had once been arrested for DUI – a fact that prosecutors say would have surely kept him off the jury had he told them as required while he was a prospective juror.

Colbath when he sentenced DeMartin said he wanted to “send a message” to the community on the importance of honesty and integrity as jurors.

Petillo in his request to the appellate court last week reiterated his belief that it was improper for Colbath to base his sentence on that premise.

Assistant Attorney General Richard Valuntas, in a response filed Wednesday morning, said there’s nothing for the Supreme Court to consider because Colbath’s sentence was within the statutory limits.

“Nothing in the record shows appellant was actually sentenced more harshly in order to ‘send a message’ to the community,” Valuntas wrote, adding that courts in other jurisdictions have ruled that judges can use “the concept of general deterrence” when giving an offender a legal sentence.

Colbath cited DeMartin’s actions in 2013 as the reason he overturned Goodman’s first conviction and 16-year prison sentence. A second jury in October 2014 convicted Goodman again, and he is now in the second year of a 16-year sentence.

DeMartin now lives in New Haven, Connecticut, where he moved after serving a month of his sentence.