Tennis umpire seeks $10M verdict lawsuit against LA County coroner

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- It was initially headlined "The Coffee Mug Murder."

On Thursday, lawyers for Lois Goodman said they are suing the Los Angeles County Coroner, calling the notion of murder "preposterous," "physically impossible," and a "Kafkaesque nightmare."

Alan Goodman died from multiple cuts on his head caused by a ceramic mug, but a federal jury has been hearing conflicting interpretations about how those cuts were inflicted. Was it a murder or a freak accident?

Goodman's wife, professional tennis umpire Lois Goodman, was arrested in front of TV cameras, but never brought to trial because of insufficient evidence.

She had been officiating tennis matches miles away from home at the time of her husband's death. There was no physical evidence linking her to the crime.

In the federal lawsuit, the jury is deliberating over the work of the L.A. deputy medical examiner, Dr. Yulai Wang, whose autopsy triggered Lois Goodman's arrest for murder.

Goodman is suing for $10 million.

Lawyers for the widow told the jury that Wang recklessly and maliciously falsified the autopsy report in August 2012, alleging that he failed to note injuries that were consistent with her husband falling on the mug.

Goodman's legal team asserts that LAPD detectives pushed Wang to conclude that the death was a homicide.

The jury heard part of an interrogation conducted by lead detective David Peteque to show that investigators were determined to get a confession from the 70-year old suspect.

PETEQUE: "Lois, you can sit here and play hardball and play dumb and everything else. That is your right."

GOODMAN: "I wasn't at home."

PETEQUE: "Lois, that doesn't cut it, that doesn't cut it."

GOODMAN: "It is the truth."

PETEQUE: "No it is not the truth. Lois you come here and blow smoke up our is not our first day on the job, Lois."

Wang's defense is that his autopsy was factual and accurate, noting that 17 cuts to the decedent's head were consistent with a homicide and that professional standards did not require him to elaborate on injuries that may have been caused by a fall.

Though he testified he knew that his finding would lead to Lois Goodman's arrest, the jury also heard testimony that Wang was not involved in the decision to seek murder charges or arrest her.

"He did his job honestly and reasonably," Wang's lawyer, Rickey Ivie, said. "There was no malice, no intent. He just did his job."

The jury deliberated for less than a half hour Thursday. The panel of seven women and one man will be back on Tuesday to resume their discussions.
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