Michael F. Goodwin, convicted of the 1988 murders of off-road racing legend Mickey Thompson, is asking the question, “Does anyone know, or care, who really killed Mickey Thompson?” Goodwin stated from his cell at Corcoran California State Prison, where he’s serving two life sentences without possibility of parole, “Prosecutors never connected me to the murders because I had nothing to do with them.” Goodwin has always maintained his innocence and his conviction was a surprise to many legal professionals familiar with the case.
Goodwin, creator of the popular sport of Supercross, motocross racing in NFL stadiums, attempted to merge his highly successful Supercross business with Thompson’s nascent stadium off-road racing business, in 1985, but, after only three months, Thompson bailed out, suing Goodwin and winning a $500,000 judgment. They battled in court for more than three years, culminating with an order for Goodwin to pay Thompson over $700,000, the original judgment plus interest and costs. “I had pledged sufficient funds to settle the judgment early in 1988,” Goodwin claims.
“Mickey’s attorneys were drawing up settlement documents for his signature at the time of the murders,” he says, ”and there’s ample evidence to confirm that.” Goodwin continued, “All Mickey had to do was call the police and report any death threats, but there’s no evidence he ever reported any threats even to the attorneys who were trying to settle a $700,000 judgment with me. Does that make any sense? If he was being threatened, it wasn’t from me.”
Before Thompson could sign the settlement documents, he was brutally murdered by assailants who have never been identified. Goodwin was immediately suspected but after nearly nine months of intense investigation, authorities could develop no evidence tying him to the murders and, despite a conviction, still have not. Detectives did, however, investigate other suspects, one of whom confessed twice, failed a polygraph, and was identified as looking like a white man that was identified as having been near the murder scene on the morning of the murders.
However, 18 years later, at Goodwin’s trial, the judge would not allow Goodwin’s defense to present this evidence, and/or additional suggestions of how the murders occurred, to the jury. Following the trial, the jury foreman, in a declaration, having seen in the media that there was evidence of other suspects, stated that the verdict would have been different had the jury seen this evidence.
Goodwin has been in jail since his arrest in December of 2001 despite having the case dismissed in Orange County in 2004 on a venue issue. The L.A. District Attorney filed charges just hours before Goodwin could be released. He told the court in March of 2007 that he would appeal the conviction and his court appointed attorney, claiming that the case was extraordinarily complex and that the district attorney has not been cooperative in producing records, has until March 19th to file Goodwin’s appeal.
From his cell at Corcoran State Prison, Goodwin detailed his efforts to clear his name. Without assistance of any attorney, he filed a petition to have several DNA samples from the murder scene re-tested in an attempt to determine the race of the men who shot the Thompsons, according to prosecutors, on orders from Goodwin. Goodwin says, “I’ve sifted through more than 40,000 pages and the evidence documents White or Hispanic shooters, not Black. How could I have been convicted of ordering two men to commit these crimes when prosecutors aren’t sure what race they were, where they came from or who they were?”
Initially, the Superior Court judge who presided over the trial, Judge Teri Schwartz, rejected Goodwin’s request for re-testing of the DNA from the crime scene indicating in her denial, “Petitioner Goodwin was not convicted of committing the murders. The identity of the actual killers was not a significant issue in this case.” Goodwin appealed Schwartz’s decision and the California Attorney General agreed with Goodwin that an attempt should be made to identify the shooters and ordered the Superior Court to conduct the re-testing by March 28th.