Defense witness says Goodrich not a threat

Updated: August 18, 2003, 9:45 PM ET

DALLAS -- The defense attorney for former Dallas Cowboy Dwayne Goodrich, convicted of criminally negligent homicide in the hit-and-run deaths of two good Samaritans, urged jurors Monday not to vote for any punishment for Goodrich if they felt they had been improperly informed of their options.

Jurors weren't told until Monday that probation wasn't an option for Goodrich. Originally charged with manslaughter, Goodrich was convicted Friday of the lesser offense, considered a state jail felony. By law, jurors cannot consider probation for state jail felonies.

Goodrich was convicted of the deaths Joby Wood, 21, and Demont Matthews, 23, both of Plano, who were hit by his BMW as they were trying to rescue a motorist from a burning car on Jan. 14 on Interstate 35.

Prosecutors asked jurors to sentence Goodrich to 10 years in prison for each of the two charges, the maximum punishment since his case was enhanced to become a third-degree felony because his speeding car was considered a deadly weapon.

"How can 10 years be too long a price, a sentence, for the death of a couple of heroes of our generation," said prosecutor Fred Burns.

But Goodrich's defense attorney Reed Prospere accused prosecutors of relying on a glitch in the law to deny jurors the option of sentencing Goodrich to probation. Prospere asked jurors to feel free to withhold their vote, which would cause a mistrial. All 12 jurors must agree on a punishment before it can be ordered.

"You don't have to vote. It's that simple," Prospere told jurors. "The fact that the law's stupid and doesn't make sense doesn't mean you have to follow along like a lemming."

The jury was sequestered for the night after ending deliberations for the day about 8:30 p.m. and was to return at 9 a.m. Tuesday.

A judge earlier in the day rejected Prospere's request for a mistrial.

Burns accused the defense of trying to persuade jurors to disobey their oath and ignore the law. Burns said nothing would come of a mistrial.

"There's no reason why we have to try this again under the same state law," Burns said.

Besides, he said "this is not an offense, action or person who should be getting probation from the jury."

In closing arguments, Goodrich's attorney depicted him as a "good Christian," devoted father who had a bright future ahead of him. Prospere said Goodrich sent money to the families of victims to pay for funeral expenses.

Burns said Goodrich was trying to manipulate jurors by bringing up the donations.

"That's just sick," Burns said. "He's trying to buy his way out of this."

Earlier, relatives of the victims asked jurors to consider their suffering when debating punishment.

"I just want justice and my kid's dead. He needs some sort of justice," said Danny Matthews, the father of victim Demont Matthews.

Laura Wood, the mother of the victim "Joby" Wood, showed a cross pendant to the jury that her son wore the night he was killed.

"I'd like you to take the cross with you and let him be in there with you when you are in there making a decision," she said.

Goodrich rubbed his eyes during her testimony.

Randy Price, a forensic and clinical psychologist testifying for the defense, said Goodrich is not a threat to the community and does not expect special treatment because he is a professional football player.

Goodrich, 25, told jurors last week that he didn't see the pre-dawn accident scene because a sport utility vehicle in front of him blocked his view. He had testified he slammed on the brakes when he came upon a stalled vehicle in the road and was forced to swerve to the left, fatally hitting Wood and Matthews and injuring another man.

Goodrich said he originally believed, or hoped, he had hit debris, but his reaction was to flee the scene. The former Cowboy surrendered to law officers hours later after contacting his mother and his attorney.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index