Judge denies request for new Goff trial

Published 9:40 am Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Convicted murderer Megan Goff will not get a third trial, the judge in the case ruled Monday.

Visiting Judge Patrick McGrath denied a motion by Megan Goff’s attorneys asking for a new trial or a modification of her conviction and sentence.

Goff was re-tried last month in the 2006 shooting death of her estranged husband, Bill Goff. She claimed she acted in self- defense after years of emotional abuse. Her first trial, a bench trial before Visiting Judge Fred Crow, ended with conviction on an aggravated murder charge. That trial was overturned last year by the Ohio Supreme Court and a new trial ordered.

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In August, a Lawrence County Common Pleas Jury convicted her of a lesser charge of murder, as opposed to aggravated murder or a third option of voluntary manslaughter.

She was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole in 18 years, which is a sentence set by state law.

Goff’s attorneys, Paula Brown, Richard Parsons and William Bluth, contended in their motion that jury instructions were flawed and if the jury had been instructed properly, it would have found her guilty of a lesser charge.

Assistant Lawrence County Prosecutor Brigham Anderson disagreed, saying her attorneys were the ones who wrote the supposedly flawed instructions in the first place and that the instructions followed Ohio law.

McGrath agreed.

“The court believes that the defense did propose the instructions and did not object to the court’s describing voluntary manslaughter as the killing of another committed ‘knowingly,’” McGrath wrote in his ruling. “The court does not believe that its instruction prevented the jury from further deliberation if it found a purposeful killing because the court’s further instructions describe voluntary manslaughter precisely out of the definition in the Ohio Revised Code and instructions set forth in the Ohio Jury Instructions.”

McGrath noted the defense was involved in crafting the jury instructions and that the jury was not in any way prohibited from selecting voluntary manslaughter as one of three guilt options for Goff, if it found she was guilty of shooting her husband.

“The court does not agree that a change in jury instructions would have produced a different outcome to the trial,” McGrath wrote. “As argued by the state, more than sufficient evidence was presented to justify the jury’s verdict of murder.”

Goff’s attorneys contended Goff shot and killed her husband in a “fit of rage or passion” but McGrath opined the evidence did not support this.

Brown, Bluth and Parsons had also asked that, if the judge did not order a new trial, that he amend her sentence to voluntary manslaughter.

McGrath denied this as well.

Anderson said he was pleased with the decision.

“Judge McGrath followed our argument and agreed with our assessment that the defense authored the jury instructions and did not object at the time of the trial,” Anderson said. “The judge followed Ohio law with regards to jury instructions and the jury made the right decision.”

A call was placed to Paula Brown. She did not return the call as of press time.