Lois Goodman, tennis referee, cleared of murder charges amid new information
(CBS/AP) LOS ANGELES - Charges against a professional tennis referee accused in the beating death of her husband earlier this spring were dropped Friday after prosecutors said they were unable to proceed because of insufficient evidence.
Lois Goodman, 70, was accused of bludgeoning her 80-year-old husband, Alan Goodman, to death with a coffee cup on April 17 in their Los Angeles area home. The case was dismissed by Superior Court Judge Jessica Silvers after prosecutors said they received additional information.
"I feel I'm being treated fairly now. It was just a terrible accident," Lois Goodman said outside court.
Goodman has refereed matches between some of the greatest tennis players in the world. She was arrested in August by Los Angeles police in New York as she arrived to be a line judge at the U.S. Open.
District attorney's spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons declined to elaborate on the new information that led to the dismissal. However, defense attorney Alison Triessl said she believed private polygraph tests conducted by a former FBI polygraph examiner were pivotal in proving that Goodman did not kill her husband.
The case was dismissed without prejudice, meaning it could be refiled. But Triessl believes it's over.
"We're elated," Triessl said. "This has been a living hell for her. Justice has been served. She did not do this."
Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said in a statement that the case remains open and detectives were continuing the investigation.
Goodman's lawyers said her husband fell down the stairs and then managed to get himself upstairs to the bedroom where he was found dead in bed. Police said blood was spattered throughout the house.
Authorities initially believed that Alan Goodman fell down the stairs while his wife was away, but they later said it was a homicide after a mortuary reported suspicious injuries on his head. Authorities then alleged he had been clobbered on the head with a mug, and they began to treat Lois Goodman as a suspect.
Defense private investigator Scott Ross told The Associated Press that famed pathologist Dr. Michael Baden examined the coroner's evidence in the case and found that Alan Goodman died of a heart attack, not from any injuries.
"His heart was four times the normal size," Ross said.
Defense lawyers said there was little forensic evidence in the case because of the delay in the investigation. They recently disclosed Lois Goodman had passed polygraph tests supporting her claim of innocence.
A criminal law expert said such a serious charge is "very very rarely" dismissed this quickly.
"It sounds like they have little doubt that she was not responsible for the crime or they would not have acted this quickly," said law professor James A. Cohen, director of the trial advocacy program at Fordham University School of Law in New York. "When you have a well-respected medical examiner saying there is no foul play, that has to be considered."
The couple had been married 50 years and had three grown daughters. They lived in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles their entire lives.
Goodman pleaded not guilty after her arrest. After a brief stay in jail, she was released on electronic monitoring and subsequently came to court for pretrial hearings with friends and family present to support her.
"I definitely want to get back to refereeing," Goodman said after the dismissal. "But first I want to call my close friends that supported me and thank them again and again."
U.S. Tennis Association spokesman Chris Widmaier said Goodman's bi-annual certification as a referee expires at the end of December and she can apply for renewal.
If re-certified, she will have the right to apply for an official's position at the 2013 U.S. Open, he said.
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