OC prosecutors had no authority, court says

Updated: April 23, 2004, 8:46 PM ET
Associated Press

LOS ANGELES -- Orange County prosecutors had no authority to charge a man with the slaying of racer-promoter Mickey Thompson and his wife outside their suburban Los Angeles County home, a state appeals court ruled Friday.

An attorney for Michael Goodwin said he would seek his client's immediate release from Santa Ana jail following the ruling by the 4th District Court of Appeals. Otherwise, Goodwin could be freed when the ruling becomes final in 60 days, barring an appeal.

"The court has said there was utterly no basis to have filed the murder charges in Orange County against Mr. Goodwin,'' attorney Jeffrey S. Benice said.

Goodwin has been held since his 2001 arrest in the slayings of Mickey and Trudy Thompson.

They were shot to death in 1988 outside their home in Bradbury, east of Los Angeles. Witnesses said they were shot by two gunmen who fled on bicycles. Goodwin had pleaded innocent to two counts of murder and three special circumstance allegations of lying in wait, murder for financial gain and multiple murders.

Orange County maintained it had jurisdiction in the case because part of the planning for the slayings allegedly occurred in the county, where Goodwin lived. Los Angeles County has never filed charges in the case, even though the killings occurred there.

"We're obviously disappointed in this decision because justice may never be done for Mickey and Trudy Thompson, who were so brutally murdered,'' said Susan Schroeder, spokeswoman for the Orange County district attorney.

Orange County prosecutors have 30 days to decide whether to appeal the case to the state Supreme Court. They also could refer the case to the Los Angeles County district attorney's office or the state attorney general for prosecution.

A spokeswoman for the Los Angeles district attorney had no comment.

"Until (Orange County) makes a decision, it wouldn't be appropriate for us to put our two cents in,'' Sandi Gibbons said.

The defense alleged that Orange County District Attorney Anthony Rackauckas pursued the case because of a professional relationship he had with Thompson's sister, Collene Campbell.

"That is what criminals do: They kill your loved ones and then try to take down the reputation of your family and the prosecution. It's very painful for all involved,'' Campbell said from Washington, D.C. "I had a great brother and sister-in-law and it's frustrating to have it keep on.''

Thompson, the first person to travel more than 400 mph on land, and Goodwin, dubbed "the father of SuperCross'' after moving outdoor motocross shows into stadiums, were once partners in promoting off-road racing.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press