Defense rests in murder case
Prosecution to offer rebuttal today; doctor says Goff abused
The psychiatrist who examined accused murderer Megan Goff said she was a classic example of a battered woman.
Dr. Bobby Miller, of Huntington, W.Va., was the final defense witness Tuesday before co-counsel William Bluth said he and fellow attorneys Paula Brown and Richard Parsons had completed their case.
Assistant Lawrence County Prosecutor Brigham Anderson said he will likely call “three or four witnesses” during his rebuttal Wednesday and thought the jury might get the case that afternoon.
Megan Goff, 31, formerly of Hamilton Township, is accused of shooting and killing her estranged husband 15 times in March 2006. She was found guilty during a bench trial in May the following year but the Ohio Supreme Court overturned her conviction and ordered a new trial.
Miller said he had given Megan Goff three tests to gauge her truthfulness and whether she might be faking her abuse. She passed all three. Miller said he had also obtained information from her mother, and medical records and police documents such as the 911 call and her statements to sheriff’s deputies after the shooting.
The physician said he met with Goff five times between March 2006 and the present. He said he remembered the first time he met with her at the Lawrence County Jail shortly after her arrest. He said she was wet from the shower and wearing the standard issue orange jumpsuit.
“She reminded me of a little wet mouse,” Miller said.
Miller said the road to tragedy for Megan Goff began at an early age when she was repeatedly raped as a young child by a babysitter who threatened her and others if she told anyone. He said the abuse left her with post traumatic stress disorder. She was later abused by another boyfriend before she met Goff, Miller said.
“The abuse stopped because she moved away from her rapist and the first boyfriend,” Miller testified.
Miller said Megan Goff exhibited six of his criteria common among abuse victims: she had had a traumatic event that put her life in danger, as a result she had flashbacks and nightmares, she had tried to avoid circumstances that would remind her of the trauma, and she had emotional and physical reactions to the abuse.
Miller said when Megan Goff met Bill Goff, a man 25 years her senior, the domination continued.
“He groomed her sexually,” Miller said, explaining that Bill Goff had taught Megan Goff how to give him pleasure. He said their sex life began while the Goffs were dating and Megan Goff thought she could “fix her world” by being with an older man and use sex to move from out of the realm of a victim. But he testified that Megan Goff realized she was not in control of their sex life once they were married.
Miller said she lived in a house where she was told what friends she could have, what places she could and could not go and even what rooms in the house she could and could not enter. But he said she accepted this lifestyle.
“Her power was in her willingness to do what was required,” Miller said.
Miller said Megan Goff “began living inside a paradox” in that on the one hand Bill Goff seemed protective, “He would have a gun in the car and one on his person,” Miller said. “She felt he was so God-like no one was going to mess with him or with her,” but that there were these ever present guns and threats.
Miller said while Bill Goff put a gun to her head, Megan Goff told him she never felt unsafe, “but then, she never wanted to leave,” he testified.
Miller said both Goffs had become concerned for her safety early in their marriage, when she was called to serve as a juror on the Leon Aliff murder trial. Aliff was convicted of killing his estranged wife, who had left him after years of abuse. Miller told the court Megan Goff told him Bill Goff had taught her to use guns in response to these fears.
Miller said the issue of guns changed once the children were born. Bill Goff was particular about getting his sleep and was not happy if the kids made noise and woke him up.
Miller said Megan Goff told him during their sessions she began sleeping on the stairway landing outside the bedroom so she could be near the kids to keep them quiet and yet be sexually available to her husband.
“She did whatever she could to make him happy,” Miller said.
Miller said at one point Megan began requesting more privileges, such as the permission to start a business and to go on a trip to meet women she had befriended on an Internet pregnancy message board. He admitted while she said she made the trip against Bill Goff’s will she returned to find no consequences.
Miller said shortly before the shooting Bill Goff became more unpredictable and Megan didn’t know how to deal with the change in her husband.
Miller said Megan Goff went to Bill Goff’s residence March 18 with a plan. Miller said Megan Goff had told him her estranged husband had found out where she was (hiding in West Virginia) and that, “She had lots of different contingencies. She felt she needed to accelerate those contingencies to bring to an end her being in hiding.”
But, he said, her plan began falling apart.
But under cross examination by Anderson, Miller admitted he had not treated Goff prior to the shooting and he had not personally conducted the testing from which he derived his determination of abuse.
“You were able to see the domestic violence tape,” Anderson started, “You didn’t see him kick Alex…”
“No,” Miller replied.
“You didn’t see him strike Megan,” Anderson said,
“No,” Miller agreed.
“And you didn’t see him have a gun,” Anderson said.
“No,” Miller agreed.
Anderson asked if, to make his determination of abuse, Miller had ever talked to Bill Goff’s friends, or neighbors, or coworkers, or anyone other than Megan Goff or her mother. Miller said he had not.
Anderson discounted Miller’s and Megan Goff’s contention that Bill Goff had both taught her to shoot guns but then threatened her with one every day.
Anderson asked Miller if he now understood Megan Goff wasn’t telling the truth when she said she had arranged a meeting with Bill Goff at the time of the murder.
Anderson also pointed out that the night Bill Goff was shot, he was unarmed.
“Are you aware that on the day of the domestic violence incident, the sheriff’s office removed Bill Goff’s guns and gave them to her (Megan Goff’s) mother?” he said.
“Yes,” Miller replied.
Miller also admitted that he was aware it was Megan Goff, not Bill Goff, who initiated telephone calls between the two prior to the shooting.
As for the eight factors that went into his analysis of battered woman syndrome, Anderson countered to Miller that Miller’s analysis actually has 64 factors, but Miller had said only eight applied to Megan Goff.
Anderson asked how much Miller was paid for his services. Adding the fees for the first trial and this second one, Miller said he had been paid approximately $17,000.
“And were you in fact disqualified in this court from being an expert witness in another case in an area which you purported yourself to be an expert witness.”
Anderson said Miller had been disqualified as an expert witness in the Jason Mooney murder case. After some discussion, Miller admitted this was correct.
Under redirect by Bluth, Miller said his disqualification stemmed from his use of European literature versus American literature on the subject of Asperger’s Syndrome and whether people who suffer from it are able to tell a lie when being questioned by police.
Anderson had sought to prevent Miller from giving his opinion on whether Megan Goff thought she was in fear of imminent harm the night she shot Bill Goff. He argued that was for the jury to decide. But Bluth countered that Ohio law allows an expert witness to testify about the defendant’s fears in cases such as this. McGrath rejected Anderson’s motion.
Earlier in the day Tuesday, defense attorneys also called former Lawrence County Sheriff’s Deputy Wes Collins, who responded to the domestic violence call at the Goff residence in January 2006. Collins told the court he had removed 64 firearms from the residence that day.
“Is that a lot of guns?” Bluth asked.
“Yes,” Collins replied.
“Have you ever had an occasion to see that many guns in a home?” Bluth inquired.
“No,” Collins said.
“And they were spread all throughout the house?” Bluth asked.
“Yes sir,” Collins replied.
“And several were loaded, bullet in the chamber?” Bluth asked. Collins agreed.
But under cross examination by Anderson, Collins admitted 51 of the 64 guns were found in a gun safe to which Megan Goff had the combination and opened when Collins was there to collect the guns.
“Did she say the firearms were used in the domestic?” Anderson asked Collins. Collins said Megan Goff told him her estranged husband had threatened to use them.
Collins told Anderson when he had arrived at the Goff home is response to the domestic dispute, Megan Goff was “upset, frightened.”
But Anderson asked, “Would it surprise you to know that moments before you arrived she was inventorying the house in a calm manner?”
“That would surprise me a little,” Collins agreed.
The trial began last Monday with jury selection before Visiting Judge Patrick McGrath.