No Murder Mystery Here, Woman Tells LAPD
LOS ANGELES (CN) - A U.S. Open tennis referee sued the Los Angeles Police and Coroner's Departments, claiming they scored a vile publicity coup by falsely arresting and maliciously prosecuting her for the death of her sick, elderly husband, who died an accidental death.
Lois Goodman sued the LAPD and four of its officers and the County Coroner's Office and one employment in Federal Court.
She alleges false arrest, civil rights violations, malicious prosecution and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
"To this day, Mrs. Goodman suffers on a daily basis. The public humiliation is unending. There are whispers and pointed fingers wherever she goes - whether it be to a delicatessen, the Topanga mall or a tennis match," she says in her complaint.
Goodman, 70, and her 80-year-old husband, Alan Goodman, had been married for 49 years when she came home on April 17, 2012 to find him dead, lying across their bed, she says in the lawsuit.
"A shattered coffee mug was on the landing of the stairway leading upstairs to the bedroom and there was a trail of blood on the banister of the stairway. There was a blood smear near the floor of the landing but there was no spatter of blood on the walls near the landing. There was some blood in the kitchen, as well," Goodman says in the complaint.
The LAPD and Fire Department responded to her 911 call. They noted multiple cuts on the right side of Alan Goodman's head, the blood throughout the home and the shattered mug.
A detective interviewed Lois Goodman about her whereabouts during the day. She gave him a detailed timeline of her activities, which included a doctor's appointment for her husband in the morning, her duties refereeing a tennis match at a college in the afternoon, and a nail appointment in the evening.
The detective's notes "state that Mrs. Goodman 'appeared to be upset. At one point, Lois's voice changed and she almost seemed to cry.'
"The LAPD considered Mr. Goodman's death accidental and released Mr. Goodman's body to the family's funeral home. The Coroner's Office declined to visit Mrs. Goodman's home, citing Mr. Goodman's age and infirmity," Lois Goodman says in the complaint.
When he died, Alan Goodman was legally blind, had cancer, and a long history of high blood pressure, heart disease, depression, and insulin-dependent diabetes, Lois Goodman says in the lawsuit.
The LAPD listed the probable cause of death as "accidental/head injury" in its investigation report, according to the complaint.
However, three days later, "an investigator from the coroner's office 'discovered' the head cuts previously noted by the LAPD and LAFD three days earlier. The coroner investigator, who was not a medical doctor, claimed without any explanation or apparent basis, that these cuts were 'inconsistent with those from a fall.' On the strength of this 'discovery' and subjective belief, the Coroner's Office ordered Mr. Goodman's body removed from the funeral home. Defendant [Yulai] Wang purported to perform an autopsy on April 24, 2012," the complaint states.
"The autopsy noted 17 small cuts to the right side of Mr. Goodman's head, none of which injured a large blood vessel. There was no bone or brain injury. There was no injury to any vital organ. However, there was evidence of severe hypertensive heart disease with cardiac enlargement and left ventricular hypertrophy. Dr. Wang listed the cause of death as 'deferred.' A competent physician would have known that it was not possible that the head injuries were the cause of death."
That day the LAPD renewed its interest in the case and "immediately became fixated on what they considered to be Mrs. Goodman's lack of emotional display over the death of her 80-year-old husband," Goodman says in the lawsuit.
The LAPD spent the next three months searching Goodman's home and interviewing her family, friends, co-workers, and acquaintances, often suggesting responses to the interviewees, and repeatedly misquoting the interviewees, Goodman claims. Detectives noted repeatedly that Mrs. Goodman's "makeup was not running" during interviews, according to the complaint.
"As a result of their three-month investigation, LAPD defendants knew that Mr. Goodman was legally blind and had a long history of hypertension and heart disease and insulin-dependent diabetes at the time of his death. They knew that he had a history of failing to take his medication. They also knew every detail of Mrs. Goodman's schedule the day of Mr. Goodman's death. They knew where she was at all times prior to Mr. Goodman's death, and they knew that she exhibited no signs of stress or unusual behavior at any time that day prior to Mr. Goodman's death," the complaint states.
"LAPD defendants also knew or should have known that it was physically impossible for Mrs. Goodman to kill her husband with a coffee mug. They knew, in fact, that he was not killed with a coffee mug, and they knew that it would have been physically impossible for Mrs. Goodman to have carried her 180-pound husband from the stairway to their bedroom. Indeed, being detectives, LAPD defendants must have known it would have made no sense for someone who intended a death to appear as if it were caused by an accidental fall down a stairway to make the herculean effort to move the body upstairs."
Detectives also should have known that as Mrs. Goodman is right-handed, it would have been impossible for her to have struck her husband on the right side of his head, Goodman says in the complaint.
In addition, the detectives "knew there was no blood spatter on the walls near the landing. They knew their theory that Mrs. Goodman swung a coffee cup and hit her husband in the head was inconsistent with the physical evidence. There is no way the alleged coffee cup contact could have occurred without leaving blood spatter on the walls. Any competent homicide detective would have known this.
"Finally, as a result of their investigation, LAPD defendants knew that Mrs. Goodman's hands bore none of the tell-tale signs that would have certainly resulted from violently and repeatedly smashing a coffee mug and the shards of a shattered coffee mug against someone's skull. They knew that none of Mr. Goodman's blood was present on Mrs. Goodman, and they knew that the blood spatter pattern on the stairway was inconsistent with someone having violently and repeatedly smashed a coffee mug and the shards of a shattered coffee mug against someone else's skull. They had no DNA evidence to link Mrs. Goodman to the coffee cup and, in fact, when the official DNA analysis came back later in the investigation, it showed Mrs. Goodman's DNA was not on the coffee cup," Goodman says in the complaint.
No matter: The coroner changed the autopsy report to falsely list the death as a "homicide," and the LAPD got a warrant to arrest Mrs. Goodman for the murder of her husband, she says in the lawsuit.
Knowing the LAPD was trying to implicate her in her husband's death, Goodman volunteered to submit to custody numerous times personally and through her attorney, but her offers were refused, she says.
"Instead of calling Mrs. Goodman or her attorney, they waited until she traveled to New York to officiate at the U.S. Open tennis tournament. Then, traveling to New York on 'official business,' LAPD defendants alerted the national media and publicly arrested Mrs. Goodman in New York City, where they caused her to be incarcerated at Rikers Island," Goodman says in the complaint.
Not only did the LAPD arrest her, they made sure "that Mrs. Goodman would be filmed being arrested and handcuffed. The video of the humiliating arrest was repeatedly played on national television," Goodman says in the lawsuit.
The LAPD knowingly lied to the media, telling them Mrs. Goodman was having an affair and an Internet relationship with two officials, she says in the complaint.
The day after the arrest, "in an act of self-aggrandizement," defendant [LAPD employee] David Peteque went on "Good Morning America" to give alleged details of the case, including that Lois Goodman was in jail for murdering her husband, according to the lawsuit.
Goodman was transferred to the Van Nuys Jail, where she was held for several days before being released on house arrest. She was forced to wear an electronic monitoring advice for more than three months in her condominium complex.
"From August to December 2012, defendants subjected Mrs. Goodman to extensive public humiliation and caused her to incur substantial legal expenses. Then, four months after Mrs. Goodman was charged with murder, the Los Angeles District Attorney dropped all charges. Since then, LAPD defendants have continued to claim that Mrs. Goodman is still a 'suspect,'" she says in her complaint.
Goodman claims she incurred more than $100,000 in legal expenses from the false arrest, which she paid for by liquidating her accounts, borrowing money, and selling her car and personal jewelry.
"Prior to Mrs. Goodman's arrest, Mrs. Goodman was employed as a tennis referee. She refereed matches throughout the country and was nationally recognized as among the very best in her profession. As a result of defendants' actions, Mrs. Goodman was suspended for five months and suffered professional obloquy. When she was reinstated after the dismissal of the charges, she continued to suffer professionally - receiving assignments which were of lower rank than those she previously received. Her relationships with professional colleagues became strained and uncomfortable because of the international publicity which hounded her for months," Goodman says in the complaint.
Goodman seeks punitive damages.
She is represented by Todd B. Thibodo of Encino.