Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Bernhard Goetz

January 1981, Bernhard Goetz was attacked by three teenagers at a subway station.  Two of the three assailants managed to escape. The third spent just a few hours at a police station. Goetz was furious and, before the year was out, he applied for a gun permit.

According to Biography, "On December 22, 1984, Goetz entered an empty Manhattan train, carrying an unlicensed .38 caliber revolver. Also on the car were four teenagers: Troy Canty, Barry Allen, Darrell Cabey and James Ramseur. As witness testimony later stated, Goetz had barely taken his seat when the young men approached Goetz for $5. When Goetz refused, Canty responded, "Give me your money."

Suspecting he was being set up for another mugging, Goetz stood up and said, "You all can have it." Goetz started firing his revolver, wounding all four teens. When the train came to a stop, a startled Goetz ran out of the car and eventually fled the city, making his way to Concord, New Hampshire. Eight days after the shooting, Goetz finally turned himself into police."

Goetz was acquitted! The trial as told by Law2, "Attorney Barry Slotnick followed with the opening statement for the defense.  Slotnick painted his client as "neither Rambo nor a vicious predator," but rather as someone surrounded by threatening youths intent on robbing him and who, in response, took "proper and appropriate action."  He warned the jury to be skeptical of evidence presented by the two testifying witnesses, Canty and Ramseur because they had a motive to lie to further their pending multi-million dollars civil suits against Goetz.  He variously referred to Goetz's shooting victims as "hoodlums," "criminals," "savages," "punks," "low-lifes," and "thugs."  He told jurors that the four youths "assumed the risk that a citizen like Bernhard Goetz would lawfully, justifiably, fire a weapon in protection of his property." 

"Jurors voted to acquit Goetz on the four attempted murder charges on the theory that, while he wanted to end the real or imagined threat posed by the teenagers, he lacked the motivation to kill them.  In the words of one juror, Goetz might have been reasonable or unreasonable in his feeling that he was trapped, "but he didn't go out hunting." The most difficult deliberations concerned charge 11, assault in the first degree against Darrell Cabey.  The fifth bullet fired by Goetz, the one that paralyzed (a most likely seated) Darrell Cabey, was hard to excuse.  The jury debated whether Goetz had time to conclude that whatever threat the youths presented were effectively ended by the time he went over to Cabey and, according to his own confession, said, "You seem to be doing all right; here's another," before firing his final shot.  Some jurors noted that Goetz's account contradicted several other witnesses who described the shots as coming in rapid succession.  The "rapid succession" theory allowed jurors to accept the defense argument that Goetz effectively went on "automatic pilot" after he fired the first shot; the five shots were all really one event."

"In a 2004 interview, CNN's Nancy Grace asked Goetz, "Do you ever wish you had just given them $5?" Goetz replied, "I think it would have been the better thing for me, in my life, if I had just given them all my money, even though they might have pushed me around and beat me up for a second."  But Goetz then added, "But I think it was good for New York City.  What happened was very good for New York City because it forced them to address crime."

Goetz certainly left his mark on America, Wikipedia remarks, "After reaching an all-time peak in 1990, crime in New York City dropped dramatically through the rest of the 1990s. As of 2006, New York City had statistically become one of the safest large cities in the U.S., with its crime rate being ranked 194th of the 210 American cities with populations over 100,000. New York City crime rates as of 2014 were comparable to those of the early 1960s.

Goetz and others have interpreted the significance of his actions in the subway incident as a contributing factor precipitating the groundswell movement against crime in subsequent years. While that claim is impossible to verify, Goetz achieved celebrity status as a popular cultural symbol of a public disgusted with urban crime and disorder." 

Goetz would love to visit SANS Rocky Mountain 2017, as an engineer focused on the details of security, he would be amazed at how much the defensive cybersecurity community has accomplished without the use of a .38.

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