Photo by John Schreiber.
Photo by John Schreiber.

A state appeals court panel refused Monday for the second time to overturn a man’s conviction for the 1988 murders of auto racing legend Mickey Thompson and his wife, who were gunned down in the driveway of their Bradbury home.

Michael Goodwin’s conviction was first upheld on Jan. 26 by a three- justice panel from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal Jan. 26. A petition to rehear the case was filed Feb. 10 and denied today by the same panel.

Goodwin was found guilty in January 2007 of two counts of first-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Prosecutors said he ordered the killings over a failed business deal that cost him nearly $750,000.

Thompson, 59, and his 41-year-old wife, Trudy, were gunned down around 6 a.m. on March 16, 1988, in the driveway of their home in the gated San Gabriel foothills community as they headed to work at the Anaheim Stadium offices of Mickey Thompson Entertainment Group.

The killers, described by witnesses as a pair of men in their 20s, escaped on 10-speed bicycles and were never caught.

In his appeal, attorneys for Goodwin alleged a series of errors by prosecutors and the judge who presided over the trial and challenged eyewitness testimony as weak.

His appellate attorney, Gail Harper, acknowledged that her client was an “angry man” who was “known for his loudness and over-the-top statements,” but said “being a jerk isn’t a crime.”

It its January ruling, the appeals panel agreed with the trial judge’s assessment that the case was based on circumstantial evidence. But “the circumstantial evidence was overwhelming,” the justices said, noting that the “defendant repeatedly threatened to kill Mickey Thompson and hurt his family.”

“The Thompsons were killed in a carefully planned operation for which there was no robbery or other motive,” according to the ruling. “Defendant was present in the neighborhood with binoculars and another person a few days before the murders. The shooters knew where and when to find the Thompsons, how to get to their house and how best to escape the scene.”

Thompson set four international speed records in 1959 and went on to set more than 100 international or national speed marks through 1962, according to the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, which posthumously inducted him in 1990.

City News Service

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