Ohio Supreme Court hears Goff arguments

Published 12:31 pm Wednesday, October 13, 2010

COLUMBUS — Whether convicted murderer Megan Goff will get a new trial in the case of the shooting death of her estranged husband, Bill, rests in the hands of the Ohio Supreme Court.

Tuesday morning Lawrence County Assistant Prosecutor Robert Anderson and Columbus-based appellate attorney Paula Brown representing Goff faced off in oral arguments before the highest court in the state.

Goff was convicted in a bench trial before visiting Judge Fred Crow in 2007 for the death of her one-time husband, who was shot 15 times in the head and upper chest at his home the previous year. Goff’s defense was that she suffered from battered woman syndrome and that the shooting was committed in self-defense, although the victim was unarmed.

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Crow from Meigs County sentenced Goff to a minimum of 33 years in prison. She is serving that at the Ohio Reformatory for Women at Marysville.

A year ago the Ohio Fourth District Court of Appeals rejected Goff’s claim that her conviction should be overturned.

At issue before the supreme court is whether the state had the right to compel Goff to submit to a psychiatric exam by its expert when the defendant was asserting a battered woman syndrome defense.

In her opening statement Brown characterized Bill Goff as a “clearly abusive husband” and that Goff feared for her life and that of her children.

After the shooting, “Megan immediately called 911 in what can only be described as a truly haunting tape,” Brown told the justices. “She believed he was going to get off the floor and shoot her.”

The attorney’s argument was the statute that allows for state exams does not apply when the battered woman syndrome defense is offered.

“We believe the only examination that can be compelled is when the defense raises the issue of insanity or competency for trial,” Brown said.

The state has always maintained that it called in nationally known expert Dr. Philip Resnick to examine Goff and then testify in court solely as a rebuttal to the testimony introduced by the defense’s psychiatric witness.

“(Goff should) never have been compelled to the examination and Dr. Resnik should not have been allowed to testify,” Brown argued. “He got on the witness stand and testified on what he considered inconsistencies.”

Also debated was that Resnik in his testimony said he could not conclude if Goff was suffering from the syndrome.

Chief Justice Eric Brown, Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton and Justice Maureen O’Connor questioned Anderson, who prosecuted the case, on why Resnik was put on the witness stand for the state when his testimony stated his beliefs.

“That is what I see as being problematic,” O’Connor said. “The route that was taken was problematic. …. You can’t ask an expert if she is telling the truth.”

“How do you justify another person playing your role,” Stratton asked.

Anderson argued that two courts of appeals “have ruled when a defendant raises the mental state, it is only fair to have her be examined by the state and have that person testify.”

“Your expert can’t form an opinion. Are you saying you are entitled to call him,” Justice Paul Pfeifer asked.

“We believed we could call the person who did the analysis for us,” Anderson said.

Also in his brief presented to the court Anderson argued that “even if this court would sustain and adopt any or all of the propositions of law, appellant would still not be entitled to a reversal of her convictions. She offered absolutely no evidence that she was not at fault in creating the situation giving rise to the altercation or that she did not violate any duty to retreat or avoid the danger.”

Typically the court takes about three to six months to announce its decision on a case, according to Bret Crow, public information officer for the Ohio Supreme Court.

“An announcement is prepared on the case and it is posted on line,” Crow said.

Attorneys in the case receive a courtesy phone call the morning of the announcement.

If the Ohio high court affirms the conviction, Goff’s only recourse then would be with the U.S. Supreme Court.