Bernhard Goetz Testifies in Civil Trial

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NBC Today Show
Bryant Gumbel/Rehema Ellis
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NBCUniversal Media, LLC.
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Bernhard Goetz, the so-called "Subway Vigilante" who was acquitted of four attempted murder charges in 1987, is being sued for $50 million in damages by one of the victims. Attorney Ronald Kuby, who is representing the victim, Daryl Cabey, discusses the civil trial and claims that Goetz acted on racism.



"Bernhard Goetz Testifies in Civil Trial." Rehema Ellis, correspondent. NBC Today Show. NBCUniversal Media. 16 Apr. 1996. NBC Learn. Web. 4 February 2015.


Ellis, R. (Reporter), & Gumbel, B. (Anchor). (1996, April 16). Bernhard Goetz Testifies in Civil Trial. [Television series episode]. NBC Today Show. Retrieved from


"Bernhard Goetz Testifies in Civil Trial" NBC Today Show, New York, NY: NBC Universal, 04/16/1996. Accessed Wed Feb 4 2015 from NBC Learn:


Bernhard Goetz Testifies in Civil Trial


Here in New York this week, a lot of attention is once again being focused on Bernhard Goetz. Eleven and a half years ago, after shooting four youths on a subway train, Goetz is back in court facing a civil trial and $50 million in damages. As NBC's Rehema Ellis reports, this time the defendant's own words may prove his biggest problem.

REHEMA ELLIS reporting:

Bernhard Goetz was calm, but his testimony was explosive.

BERNHARD GOETZ (Defendant): In effect, I said, “The only way we're going to clean up the streets is to get rid of the n-----s and the s---s.”

ELLIS: But attorney Ronald Kuby is trying to portray Goetz as a racist, cruel and vicious.

RONALD KUBY: Did you also say that he deserved to die?

GOETZ: Well, he was acting like such an a------ I did say that, and I felt it at the time.

KUBY: And in your view, people that you perceive to be a------s should be killed?

GOETZ: Well, in many cases, it might make the world a better place.

ELLIS: In that incident, Goetz drew his gun on a panhandler, but did not fire. In 1984, Goetz emptied his gun on four young men in a New York subway.

KUBY: And is it also fair to say that at that point, you decided you were going to, quote, “Kill them all, murder them all, do anything”?

GOETZ: I snapped.

KUBY: “I made the decision. Those guys, if I had more, I would have used more, and I attempted to take them all out.” And so you have to answer.

GOETZ: Yes, I said that.

ELLIS: Goetz, a part-time electrician, is being sued for $50 million in a civil suit filed by Darrell Cabey. Now paralyzed and suffering from brain damage, Cabey was the most seriously injured of the four young men who were shot. Goetz claimed he acted in self-defense. But he said he shot the men not only because one of them demanded $5, but because of a look.

GOETZ: It was that shine in that smile that set me off.

ELLIS: In 1987, Goetz was acquitted of attempted murder by a mostly white jury in a city fed up with rising crime. Today's civil trial is before a jury of blacks and Hispanics in the same city where crime is going down. Crime is no longer the main issue, race is. Kuby is trying to show that his client, Darrell Cabey, is the victim.

KUBY: Do you know whether he took care of sick parents or sick grandparents?

GOETZ: Again, I considered him a bully. And I don't-- all these things that you are-- that you are referring to I-- I did not consider. It may surprise you, but victims don't give much thought to-- to the concerns of their assailants.

ELLIS: The trial is expected to last two more weeks. For TODAY, Rehema Ellis, NBC News, New York.

GUMBEL: Ronald Kuby is the attorney representing Daryl Cabey, the young man who was left paralyzed from the waist down by the Goetz shooting. Mr. Kuby, good morning.

RON KUBY (Darrell Cabey's Attorney): Good morning, Bryant.

GUMBEL: Mr. Goetz was acquitted of criminal assault and attempted murder nine years ago. In what major ways do you think this civil suit differs from that criminal case?

KUBY: In two major respects. First of all, the jury in the first case was almost all white. There were ten whites on that jury. And you're always willing to find a majority of white people willing to let another white guy go for shooting a black kid. I mean, that's been the theme in America since Plymouth Rock. Secondly in this case, unlike the criminal trial, Goetz, himself, took the witness stand. He was forced to take the witness stand. He has no right against self-incrimination in this civil case. And we got to see him on the witness stand. We got to see, instead of the--the fellow who was fighting back against crime, we got to watch a smug, smirking, vile bigot up there, spewing racial epithets, spewing hatred. And the jury got to see him. Something that the jury in the criminal case never saw.

GUMBEL: You think he's plain and simply a racist?

KUBY: Yes. I mean, there's more than just racism involved. I think he's a very sad, distorted, twisted, and violent man.

GUMBEL: Do you think there was any element of justifiable fear involved in this?

KUBY: Absolutely not. And Mr. Goetz admitted it. He got on the witness stand and he said that when he pulled his gun, he knew-- he knew that that would be enough to scare anybody away. But when he saw the shine in the eyes of one of the young men and the smile on his face, that's when he made the decision to kill them all. That's cold-blooded attempted murder. That's not some sort of response to fear.

GUMBEL: How do you interpret the word shine?

KUBY: Well, you know, historically, it's been a racist term. I mean, it's been a term that's been applied to African-Americans. It is a term of derision.

GUMBEL: You--you say this is a case about race from--from start to finish, this is not about crime, not about--not about violence, not about protection, not about fear.

KUBY: It's about fear of young black men. And Mr. Goetz manifested that fear of young black men when he pulled out that gun and instead of holding his fire, fired again and again and again and again, and walked up to his most seriously wounded victim and said, “You don't look so bad, here's another,” pulled out the gun again and fired a shot point-blank into that young man's back.

GUMBEL: You're suing Mr. Goetz for--for $50 million. What's the purpose of--of that figure, when Mr.-- Mr. Goetz, a freelance electrical consultant is not a wealthy man?

KUBY: He's not, that's true. But there are other people out there--other white bigots with guns out there who do have money. And they need to be told that all of their assets, all of their fortunes are at risk unless they keep that gun in the holster.

GUMBEL: And when do you expect the jury to get the trial...

KUBY: Sometime...

GUMBEL: ...I mean to get the case?

KUBY: ...sometime next week.

GUMBEL: All right. Ronald Kuby, thanks very much.

KUBY: Thank you.