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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A Los Angeles judge dismissed murder charges on Friday against a 70-year-old tennis lineswoman who was accused of beating her husband to death with a coffee mug and arrested in August as she prepared to officiate at the U.S. Open.
The dismissal was requested by prosecutors, who publicly gave little indication why they were dropping the case that they filed against Lois Goodman earlier this year. A Los Angeles County District Attorney's spokeswoman said in a terse statement only that "additional information" had come forward.
"Based upon this information, we announced that we are unable to proceed with the case at this time. The court granted our request to dismiss the case without prejudice," spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons said.
"Because there is an ongoing police and district attorney's investigation, we will not make any further statements that might compromise that investigation," she said.
The decision by Superior Court Judge Jessica Silvers to dismiss the case without prejudice means that charges could be re-filed against Goodman in the future but Gibbons declined to say if such a move was likely.
"I'm so happy," Goodman told reporters outside court. "I feel wonderful. I've always maintained my innocence. It was just a tragic accident."
The tennis official, who faced a maximum sentence of life in prison if she had been convicted at trial, said prosecutors had done the "right thing" in dropping the case.
Goodman is well known in tennis circles and had worked at the annual U.S. Open Tennis Championships tournament for at least the past 10 years, mainly as a line judge, according to the U.S. Tennis Association.
"To put it mildly we had a big win today. The score is 40-love, game over," her attorney, Robert Sheahen, told Reuters in an interview.
Sheahen said he didn't believe that the case would be re-filed against his client. He said prosecutors had abandoned the case because it was "baseless" and could not be proven in court.
"Every piece of evidence that came in went in our favor: The polygraph, the DNA, the reconstruction of the scene. They finally decided they had no case. She's innocent. She didn't commit this crime; she didn't kill her husband, period," he said.
According to police, Goodman reported on April 17 that she had found her 80-year-old husband, Alan Goodman, dead in their home and surmised that he had suffered a heart attack and fallen down a flight of stairs.
But the death was ruled a homicide in August and Lois Goodman was charged with murder. She was arrested in New York City, where she had traveled to help officiate the U.S. Open.
Police said at the time that a search for evidence in the home turned up a broken coffee mug that roughly matched lacerations and contusions on Alan Goodman's head.
Defense lawyers contend that Alan Goodman's death was an accident, a conclusion they say was also originally reached by Los Angeles police detectives.
They also say that their client has passed a polygraph or "lie detector" test and that her DNA was not found on the mug, supporting their theory that Alan Goodman had been carrying a cup of coffee when he fell down the stairs.
Prosecutors have declined to comment on the lie-detector test, which was arranged by defense attorneys, or on the lack of DNA evidence.
Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Bill Trott, Cynthia Johnston, Mohammad Zargham and Lisa Shumaker