Court upholds conviction in murder of famed auto racer, wife

AP News
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Posted: Jan 26, 2015 8:55 PM

LOS ANGELES (AP) — An appeals court upheld convictions Monday in the murders of auto racing legend Mickey Thompson and his wife.

A three-judge panel on the 2nd District Court of Appeal unanimously rejected Michael Goodwin's numerous claims of prejudicial errors in his 2007 trial.

Goodwin, 69, is serving life in prison without parole in the 1988 slayings of Mickey and Trudy Thompson, who were gunned down in the driveway of their suburban Los Angeles home.

Circumstantial evidence showed Goodwin hired two hit men to kill the couple to avenge a soured business deal.

"I hope Mick and Trudy are looking down," said Collene Campbell, Thompson's sister. "When you spend half of your life trying to have somebody convicted of a killing you know that they did, it's a tough one to wait this long. ... If it was overturned, you'd go back to square one."

Defense attorney Gail Harper called it the "shakiest hit man case" she'd ever seen and argued there was insufficient evidence connecting Goodwin to the gunmen, who were never identified.

In her 500-page appeal, she argued there were numerous flaws — evidence improperly being introduced; errors in jury instructions; and prosecutorial misconduct, to name a few.

Harper told the court during arguments in October that her client was an angry jerk, but that was no crime.

In rejecting her claim that the prosecutor acted in bad faith by promising evidence in opening statements that he failed to produce at trial, the appellate court dismissed the "defendant's often hyperbolic (and sometimes misleading) claims."

Harper said she was disappointed and numb with the conclusion of the 164-page decision, but she hadn't read it yet. She had not shared the news with Goodwin.

Harper expected to file a petition for review with the California Supreme Court.

Thompson gained fame pursuing land-speed records on the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, driving dragsters and funny cars, and popularizing off-road competitions.