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Suspect in Death of Racer May Be Freed

Prosecutors have yet to appeal a ruling that they lacked jurisdiction to try Michael Goodwin in slayings of Mickey Thompson and his wife.

June 03, 2004|David Haldane and Christine Hanley | Times Staff Writers

Orange County prosecutors apparently will not appeal a court ruling dismissing murder charges against Michael Goodwin in the 1988 killings of auto racing legend Mickey Thompson and his wife.

The decision, Deputy Dist. Atty. Jim Mulgrew told Associated Press on Wednesday, means that Goodwin, Thompson's former partner, could be released from jail by the end of the month.

Goodwin, who has been in custody since his arrest 2 1/2 years ago, said he's grateful that the case is moving forward, but that he's been held long enough.

"This case was dismissed April 23," he said by telephone from Orange County Jail. "I am still in jail even though they are not going to appeal. This is beyond outrageous. But thank God it's moving forward. I hope to be out soon."

An appeal could still be received today, said Jeffrey Friedman, an attorney representing Goodwin, under a provision allowing time for overnight mail to reach the California Supreme Court. The high court also has until June 22 to decide on its own whether a review is warranted, Friedman said, but "there's no way they would in this case" because "they're usually interested in taking on cases only if there's a published opinion" and Goodwin's wasn't.

Mulgrew told Associated Press that prosecutors believed they were not likely to win a reversal of the appeal court's ruling, which found they lacked jurisdiction in the slaying of Thompson and his wife, Trudy.

The opinion in question was issued April 23 by the 4th District Court of Appeal.

The Thompsons were shot to death as they were leaving for work May 16, 1988. The case languished for more than a decade as investigators in Los Angeles and Orange counties chased down more than 1,000 leads.

Finally, in 2001, the Orange County district attorney's office brought Goodwin before a grand jury and later charged him with the crime. He was arrested and has been held since Dec. 13, 2001. He pleaded not guilty to two counts of murder and special-circumstance allegations of lying in wait, murder for financial gain and multiple murders.

The only shadow on the defense team's relief is that the Los Angeles County district attorney's office -- which has declined to prosecute the case before -- is reconsidering its position at Orange County's request, said Jeffrey S. Benice, one of Goodwin's attorneys.

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