AP Photo/Mitchell Tapper
Bernhard Goetz, indicted on by a Grand Jury on four counts of attempted murder, wears handcuffs after he surrendered, Thursday, March 23, 1985 in New York to detectives who escorted him for formal arraignment.
Goetz shot four, unarmed black teens, paralyzing one of them, on the subway in 1984. His acquittal of attempted murder after a highly publicized, racially charged trial outraged the public.
Like Zimmerman, he claimed self-defense, though he didn't have physical injuries to help support that claim like Zimmerman did.
Goetz told police the boys' "body language" indicated they wanted to hurt him, according to a 1985 New York Times article on the case. Then, Goetz told police, "he snapped." He fired four shots at the boys, one of which missed. Then, he shot one of the boys, Darrell Cabey, at point-blank range, telling police he said, "You don't look so bad, here's another." The shot severed Cabey's spinal cord, paralyzing him.
It was not an easy case, Goetz's lawyer Barry Slotnick told Business Insider. (In fact, it was far more difficult for the defense than the Zimmerman case, which never should have gone to trial, Slotnick says.)
"After he surrendered, he gave a statement to the district attorney that was awful," Slotnick said, referring to the "here's another" comment. "We were able to take it and move it around and twist it and let the jury know he was afraid and had a right to do what he did."
It's possible the New Yorkers sitting on the jury identified with Slotnick's fear in an era when crime was rampant on the subways.
"I think people walked into the jury box with a lot of laundry," Slotnick said. "New York City was a horror show. This was not a fun place to live, and Goetz was the symbol to a lot of people of what had to be dealt with."
Asked if he thought the outcome was fair, Slotnick said, "Fair is not a word in my vocabulary." The prosecution, he said, could not prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. There's not such a high burden of proof in civil cases, though. In 1996, Goetz lost a $43 million civil suit brought by the man he paralyzed, who also had severe brain damage.
He later went on to run for mayor of New York, on a platform that would have mandated all-vegetarian menus at city facilities including public schools. Of course, he lost that race — but he came into the public eye again when he commented in defense of Zimmerman.
“I’m surprised the same thing is happening 30 years later," he told the Daily Beast. "It’s a different place, but the prosecution is the same."
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