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Lawyers on Both Sides Take Shots at Goetz; Jury Begins Deliberations

April 23, 1996

NEW YORK (AP) _ Jurors today began deliberating whether subway gunman Bernhard Goetz was a racist who should pay damages for shooting a black youth or simply a passenger who was afraid for his life.

The attorneys’ final statements Monday to the jury of four blacks and two Hispanics set the stage for deliberations, which began this morning after Judge Barry Salman’s instructions.

Goetz got hit from both sides at the end of the $50 million suit against him: His own lawyer said he deserved to be punched in the mouth while the opposing attorney called him ``a small man with large hatreds.″

Goetz, 48, shot Darrell Cabey and three other young black men on Dec. 22, 1984, after they asked him for $5. He said they were robbing him; they said they were only panhandling.

Paralyzed and brain-damaged from the shooting, the 30-year-old Cabey is suing Goetz. In his criminal trial nine years ago, Goetz was acquitted of attempted murder but convicted of weapons violations. He spent 250 days in jail.

In a two-hour summation, defense lawyer Darnay Hoffman reminded the jury that Cabey was quoted in a 1985 newspaper interview as saying that Goetz ``looked like easy bait.″

Gesturing toward his client, Hoffman then launched a string of insults.

``He’s a nerd, a geek, a peckerwood, a cracker,″ Hoffman said of Goetz. He was ``not some cool, calculating racist,″ the attorney said, but a frightened man.

Hoffman admitted that Goetz’s own words ``damned him tremendously,″ including his remark that Cabey’s mother should have had an abortion and his reference at a community meeting in 1980 to ``spics and niggers.″

``Quite frankly, someone should punch him in the mouth for saying it,″ Hoffman said.

Cabey’s lawyer, Ronald Kuby, delivered his own verbal assault during his closing argument, calling Goetz ``a small man with large hatreds″ who pulled the trigger when he saw the black youths. Goetz is white.

Kuby told the jury to deliver a verdict that serves as a message of deterrence: ``Bankrupt every other racist with a pistol who taunts and then fires.″

Referring to Goetz’s statements, taped just after he shot the youths, that ``I wanted to kill them all″ and that he ``could have gouged their eyes out,″ Kuby said: ``It is as damning a chronicle as one could ever have. .... How much more proof do you need?″

Although Cabey is suing for $50 million, both sides acknowledged that Goetz’s legal bills have left the self-employed electronics expert without much money.

Goetz, who sat impassively during the arguments, was not shaken by the punishment heaped upon him. ``I think both attorneys did a good job,″ he said at the end of the afternoon.

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