Reaction is mixed as N.Y.C. reopens case of subway shooting
New York — Reaction in New York City was mixed as the case of Bernhard H. Goetz, who confessed to shooting four teen-agers on a subway in December, was scheduled to go back to a grand jury next week on the basis of ``significant new evidence'' introduced by Manhattan District Attorney Robert M. Morganthau. Lawyers for Mr. Goetz, an engineer who says he was about to be robbed when he shot the four young men, blasted the decision as political and ``highly unfortunate.'' Lawyers for the youths characterized the move as ``the first step in the road back to sanity'' in the case.
A previous grand jury examining the case indicted Goetz on illegal possession of guns, but it did not indict him for attempted murder. Public sympathy has been on the side of Goetz, but statements made by Goetz to police when he surrendered in Concord, N.H., and recently made public have created a furor.
According to his statement, made when he turned himself in Dec. 31, Goetz shot each of the teens, and then checked on their condition. He said he looked at one teen sprawled on the subway bench, said, ``You don't look too bad, here's another,'' then fired at him again.
``He acted in self-defense,'' said one black woman recently in Manhattan. She declined to be indentified. ``But he's talking himself into jail now.''
Others have suggested that Goetz's actions were racially motivated. Goetz is white and all four teens are black. Three were released from hospitals after treatment for gun wounds, but one, Darrel Cabey, remains in a hospital with serious injuries. At the request of black leaders, United States Attorney Rudolph Giuliani looked into the case, but he said the evidence did not warrant an indictment for federal civil rights violations.
District Attorney Morganthau told reporters that he had looked for ways to reintroduce the case since shortly after the first grand jury delivered its indictments. He would not discuss what the new evidence was or when it was obtained, saying the he did not want to influence the secret grand jury. But it was reported that new interviews with witnesses make up part of the new evidence.
One shooting victim, Troy Canty, offered to testify, but changed his mind when his family received death threats, according to his lawyer. Mr. Morgenthau said Wednesday he offered to protect and relocate Mr. Canty in return for his testimony, but that Canty's family refused the deal. The other victims declined requests to testify without immunity from prosecution.
Under state law, a district attorney can ask a judge to reopen a case only once, when there is new evidence not available before, or if there was a flaw in the original proceedings.