Defense Loses Ruling in Thompson Murder Trial

Times Staff Writer

Rejecting a key defense claim, a judge said Monday that lawyers cannot argue that racing promoter Mickey Thompson was shot to death because he planned to testify against the man who killed his nephew.

The ruling by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Teri Schwartz came as both sides geared up to pick a jury in the 18-year-old murder mystery of the man who first broke the 400-mph land speed barrier.

Thompson was not only a record holder, but became a millionaire by promoting auto, boat, off-road and drag racing. He and his wife, Trudy, were slain March 16, 1988, at their mansion in Bradbury by two men who escaped on bicycles.

Facing trial is Michael Goodwin, once Thompson’s business partner and another motor sports racing pioneer. He is accused of ordering Thompson’s death after he lost a bitter business dispute with him and went bankrupt.


Goodwin has pleaded not guilty. There is no physical evidence from the crime scene, and the two men suspected of shooting Thompson and his wife have never been arrested.

Deputy Public Defender Elena Saris argued Monday that Thompson was killed because of his testimony against the man convicted of murdering his nephew. Scott Campbell was thrown out of an airplane over the Pacific Ocean in 1982, and his body was never recovered. Larry Cowell was convicted of murdering him over a drug deal and is serving a life term in prison.

Thompson provided testimony that undercut Cowell’s alibi at his first trial; Thompson was killed before he could testify at a retrial, ordered after an appeals court ruled that Cowell’s confession had been coerced.

Saris suggested that the slayings were committed by two hit men convicted of two other contract murders within weeks of the Thompson slayings.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Alan Jackson called Saris’ scenario “weak, thin and bogus.”

Jury selection is set to begin today at the Pasadena courthouse. The trial is expected to last until Christmas.