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Police bungled tennis umpire crime scene, attorneys say

September 18, 2012 |  5:32 pm

Lois Goodman
U.S. Open tennis umpire Lois Goodman should not be forced to give prosecutors a DNA sample because her home is already tainted, and she touched the alleged murder weapon, her attorneys said.

Goodman is charged with bludgeoning her 80-year-old husband, Alan Goodman, with a broken coffee mug April 17, then leaving him to die while she played tennis and got a manicure.

Prosecutors are seeking a sample of Lois Goodman's DNA, but in a court motion, defense attorneys paint a picture of a bungled police investigation with a tainted crime scene. Attorneys Robert Sheahan, Alison Triessl and Kelly S. Gerner argue 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.

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

Three days later, a coroner's official at a mortuary noticed a head wound and determined it was the result of blunt-force trauma. Prosecutors now allege 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 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.

Sandi Gibbons, a district attorney's spokeswoman, said Goodman had already given a DNA swab upon her arrest but a second sample is needed for crime lab analysis.

Defense attorneys also allege that no crime scene investigation was conducted to seek a different suspect.

Lois Goodman is free on $500,000 bail after pleading not guilty. Her attorneys and children maintain that she is innocent. Triessl said that Goodman was too weak and physically incapable of committing the crime.


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-- Richard Winton

Photo: Lois Goodman, a tennis umpire accused of bludgeoning her husband to death at their Woodland Hills home earlier this year, appeared in a Van Nuys courtroom for her arraignment Aug. 29. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times