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Self-Defense - Self-defense Or Unjustified Shooting?

goetz cabey jury york

On December 22, 1984, at approximately 1:00 P.M., Troy Canty, Darryl Cabey, James Ramseur, and Barry Allen boarded an express subway train in the Bronx borough of New York City. The young black men sat in the rear section of their car. A short time later, Bernhard Goetz boarded the same car and took a seat near the youths. Goetz, a white computer technician, had been mugged some two years earlier.

Canty and Allen approached Goetz, and Canty said, "Give me five dollars." Goetz responded by standing up and firing at the youths with a handgun. Goetz fired four shots before pausing. He then walked up to Cabey and reportedly said, "You seem to be all right, here's another," whereupon he fired his fifth and final bullet into Cabey's spinal cord. Goetz had shot two of the youths in the back. Ramseur and Cabey each had a screwdriver, which they said they used to break into coin boxes and video machines.

Goetz fled the scene and traveled north to New Hampshire. On December 31, 1984, he turned himself in to police in Concord, New Hampshire. Goetz was returned to New York where he was indicted on a charge of criminal possession of a weapon. The state fought for a second GRAND JURY, and Goetz was eventually indicted a second time on charges of attempted murder, assault, criminal possession of a weapon, and reckless endangerment. At trial Goetz argued that he had acted in self-defense, and a jury convicted him only of illegal gun possession. Ultimately Goetz was sentenced to one year in jail and fined $5,000.

Goetz's shooting of Darryl Cabey left Cabey with brain damage and paralyzed from the chest down. Cabey sued Goetz, and in April 1996, a Bronx jury found Goetz liable for Cabey's injuries and awarded Cabey $43 million.

FURTHER READINGS

Fletcher, George P. 1988. A Crime of Self-Defense: Bernhard Goetz and the Law on Trial. New York: Free Press.

Roehrenbeck, Carol A. 1989. People vs Goetz: The Summations and the Charges to the Jury. Buffalo, N.Y.: W.S. Hein.

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