Lisa Pembleton doesn't drink. Neither do her friends.
"I don't hang out with those kind of people," she said on the witness stand in a West Palm Beach courtroom today.
Her sobriety is just one of many stark differences between Pembleton, a horse trainer and student of the equestrian sport of dressage, and Wellington polo mogul John Goodman. Pembleton spent her days and nights grooming horses during the winter of 2010, living in a trailer next to a barn. Goodman is a multimillionaire who founded the International Polo Club in Wellington, and was out partying the night before he met Pembleton.
Yet this sober, God-fearing, 28-year-old horse trainer is the prosecution's star witness in Goodman's DUI manslaughter case. She's the first person who saw Goodman after the car accident that led to
23-year-old Scott Wilson's death. Goodman banged on the door of Pembleton's trailer door at 1:30 a.m. on February 12, 2010. Before she could respond, he let himself in and stood at the foot of her bed asking to use her phone. As Pembleton grabbed her mace and stayed safely under the covers in her bed, Goodman used her phone to call his girlfriend. He said, according to Pembleton, that he'd been in an "end-of-the-world accident." (Read more about the accident in this New Times feature story).
Pembleton spoke haltingly during the testimony, sitting stoically and rarely cracking a smile. She wore her long blond hair pulled back in a barrette, and was clearly uncomfortable in the spotlight. She hesitated for long, awkward moments before answering some questions.
Roy Black, Goodman's defense attorney, accused her of being biased. On cross-examination, he grilled her about a lawyer, Harry Shevin, that has been representing her for the last two years. Pembleton was introduced to Shevin by attorneys who represent Scott Wilson's parents in the civil case they filed against Goodman. Pembleton said she has never paid Shevin a fee for his services. Black suggested the Wilsons' lawyers were paying him.
"Was it not obvious to you that someone suing John Goodman was paying your lawyer?" Black asked.
"No," Pembleton said.
Prosecutor Ellen Roberts later read an excerpt from a deposition in which Shevin said he was not paid by anyone involved in the criminal case.
Meanwhile, Pembleton provide a few more clues about Goodman's appearance the morning of the car accident. She said he seemed "very slow, just not right." He asked her the same questions over and over again, and had trouble comprehending the answers.
He told her that he "drank a few" that night. And he was concerned about his appearance. "How do I seem to you?" she testified that he asked.
She urged him to call 911, which he finally did, an hour after the crash occurred. When the police arrived, Pembleton accompanied Goodman outside to meet them, and he offered her a wad of cash.