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Thursday, August 14, 2003
Defense under way in ex-Cowboy's manslaughter trial

Associated Press

DALLAS -- Dwayne Goodrich, a former Dallas Cowboys defensive back on trial for manslaughter in the hit-and-run deaths of two people who stopped along the highway to free a motorist from a burning car, told jurors Thursday that he didn't see the fiery freeway accident scene until it was too late.

Goodrich testified that a sport utility vehicle in front of him had blocked his view as he approached the accident. He said he slammed on his brakes when he came upon a stalled vehicle in the road and was forced to swerve to the left, fatally hitting "Joby" Wood, 21; and Demont Matthews, 23; and injuring another man.

The 25-year-old, who became emotional a few times during testimony, said he originally believed, or hoped, he had hit debris, but his reaction was to flee the scene.

"I just panicked and got scared," Goodrich said. "I've never, ever in my life been in any kind of situation like that and didn't know how to handle anything."

Goodrich testified that he went to a friend's house, called his mother and returned to the accident scene to see the damage he had caused but did not surrender to law officers until consulting with a lawyer, hours after the pre-dawn accident Jan. 14.

Prosecutor Fred Burns tried to discredit Goodrich's testimony by pointing out that he never mentioned in a police statement that an SUV had blocked his view or that he had returned to the scene.

Burns probed Goodrich about why he had panicked if he initially believed he hit only debris.

"You panicked because you saw the faces of the men who bounced over your windshield -- the men you killed," Burns said.

Goodrich denied the accusation. He said he regretted not stopping after the accident and said it wasn't in his character to flee.

"I've went over this thing a thousand times in my head, and I've stopped all thousand times," Goodrich said.

Goodrich also said alcohol was not a factor in the accident and said he had not had anything to drink for three hours prior to it.

On Wednesday, the defense called to the stand an expert who testified that he believes the player was not intoxicated at the time of the accident.

Gary Wimbish of Forensic Toxicology Consultants testified that he had dinner with Goodrich and that they ordered the same amount of drinks Goodrich said he had consumed in the hours before the accident. A nurse went along and later ran blood-alcohol tests on Goodrich, Wimbish said.

The results, Wimbish said, were a reading of .002. The blood-alcohol level at which a person is considered legally intoxicated in Texas is .08.

Though witnesses have testified that Goodrich was traveling at more than 100 mph when he plowed into the burning car, Goodrich said Thursday that he was going much slower, possibly 35 mph, as he decelerated with the vehicle in front of him.

Earlier Thursday, Goodrich lowered his head and openly wept as his mother, Pam Goodrich, testified about her son's emotional state the night of the crash.

Goodrich's mother, who strained to control her emotions, said her son was crying and appeared distraught and fearful when he called her to tell her of the accident. She said she encouraged him to return to the scene.

"I said to him he had to go back," she said. "I also said to him, again as he was crying, that we needed to pray."

Goodrich, whom the Cowboys released in February, faces two to 20 years in prison for each count if convicted. He also has been indicted on one count of aggravated assault and three counts of failing to stop and render aid. The current trial is only for the manslaughter charges.

The prosecution rested Wednesday after a traffic investigator testified he believed Goodrich had time to slow down before he sped through the accident scene.

James Moore testified that Goodrich was "100 percent" responsible for the wreck. Even traveling at 100 mph, he said, Goodrich had adequate time to slow down because he should have seen the wreck from a half mile away. Numerous other vehicles were able to stop in time, Moore testified.

Goodrich gave police a statement in the 24 hours after the accident, saying he was traveling about 75 mph on his way home from a topless bar and didn't realize he was coming up on an accident until it was too late for him to avoid it.

To reach a guilty verdict for manslaughter, prosecutors must prove that Goodrich drove recklessly when he struck and killed Wood and Matthews.