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Tennis umpire loses bid to block taking of DNA sample from her

A judge rejects the attempt by attorneys for Lois Goodman, who is accused of killing her husband with a coffee mug.

September 20, 2012|By Richard Winton, Los Angeles Times
  • U.S. Open tennis umpire Lois Goodman, left, with her attorney, Alison Triessl, in a Van Nuys courtroom in August.
U.S. Open tennis umpire Lois Goodman, left, with her attorney, Alison Triessl,… (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times )

Attorneys for a renowned tennis umpire charged with killing her husband with a broken coffee cup failed Wednesday to stop police from collecting a sample of her DNA.

Lawyers for 70-year-old Lois Goodman suggested that the DNA would be meaningless since prosecutors already knew she gathered up the shards of the broken coffee cup and offered them to police, who initially dismissed them as meaningful evidence because they believed the death was an accident.

The Woodland Hills woman is charged with bludgeoning her 80-year-old husband, Alan Goodman, with the broken coffee mug April 17, then leaving him to die while she went to play tennis and get a manicure. She is free on $500,000 bail but under electronic monitoring.

Los Angeles County prosecutors on Wednesday said they were seeking a sample of her DNA to compare with blood found in the home and on the coffee cup.

But defense attorneys said that the police investigation was bungled, that the crime scene was tainted and that prosecutors are now looking for a way to bolster their case.

"A DNA sample infers criminality," said Robert Sheahan, who along with attorneys Alison Triessl and Kelly S. Gerner argued that prosecutors cannot even show probable cause to get the umpire's DNA — let alone prove her husband was slain.

"To now claim Mrs. Goodman is more likely to have committed the offense because her DNA is inside the home is madness," the attorneys wrote in a motion.

But Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Jessica Silvers told them that she believed authorities had cause to get a saliva sample and that it would be taken in a private setting.

Initially, Los Angeles police believed that Alan Goodman's death was an accident, accepting his wife's explanation that she found him dead when she returned to their condominium. She said she concluded that he had fallen down the stairs, then crawled back upstairs and into bed.

Three days later, a coroner's official at a mortuary noticed a head wound and determined that it was the result of blunt-force trauma. Prosecutors now allege that she wielded a broken coffee cup as an "improvised knife" and left her husband to die.

But Goodman's attorneys say she immediately called 911 when she found her deceased husband. Police, paramedics and loved ones filled the home and trampled through the alleged crime scene, which police "did not cordon off," attorneys say.

"Mrs. Goodman led everyone upstairs, past the pool of blood on the carpet, into the bedroom, where she had found her husband dead," according to the court motion. "She gave the police a tour of the home. Mrs. Goodman even placed bloody towels and the shards of a coffee cup in a plastic grocery bag and offered these items to investigators, who told her they did not need the evidence."

When investigators eventually left, family members were left to clean up. By the time the LAPD decided days later that Alan Goodman's death was a homicide, the evidence was "irreparably tainted," the lawyers wrote. Defense attorneys also allege no crime scene investigation was conducted to seek a different suspect.

Prosecutors said that Goodman had already given a DNA swab upon her arrest but that a second sample was needed for crime lab analysis.

Lois Goodman has pleaded not guilty.

richard.winton@latimes.com

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