Subway gunman must pay $43m to `deter others'

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The Independent Online
New York (AP) - A jury yesterday ordered "subway" gunman Bernhard Goetz, to pay $43m (pounds 28m) to a young black man left paralysed by his 1984 shooting in the New York underground.

The jury of four blacks and two Hispanics ruled that Goetz, a white man, acted recklessly and without justification in shooting Darrell Cabey, who is black. It awarded Mr Cabey, 30, $18m in compensatory damages and $25m in punitive damages.

The chances of Mr Cabey ever collecting are slight. Both sides acknowledged that Goetz's legal bills have left the 48-year-old self-employed electronics expert with little money. But under state law, Mr Cabey could collect 10 per cent of Goetz's earnings for the next 20 years.

The verdict came nine years after a criminal trial in which a mostly white jury acquitted Goetz of attempted murder and convicted him on a weapons charge.

He served eight months in jail.

Goetz shot Mr Cabey and three other young black men in December 1984, after they asked him for $5 in the subway. He said they were about to rob him; they said they were only begging. Mr Cabey was left brain-damaged and uses a wheelchair.

The verdict came after four-and-a-half hours of deliberations and a two-week trial. Goetz was not in the courtroom for the verdict.

In his final arguments on Monday, Goetz's lawyer, Darnay Hoffman, said that Goetz deserved to be punched in the mouth for his bigoted remarks but that was justified in opening fire.

In an impassioned, rambling, two-hour summation Mr Hoffman spent almost as much time savaging his client as he did the plaintiff.

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

But Goetz is "not some cool, calculating racist" who would shoot four young blacks unless he thought they were about to rob him, the lawyer said.

He reminded the jury of Mr Cabey's statement in a 1985 newspaper interview that the young men were going to rob Goetz because "he looked like easy bait". Elsewhere, the four young men have said they were only begging.

Mr Hoffman repeatedly tried to vindicate his client with very faint praise. "Look at that guy over there," he said. "He's a nerd, a geek."

Mr Cabey's lawyer, Ronald Kuby, branded Goetz "a bigot with a gun" and urged the jury to bankrupt him.

Earlier this month, Goetz took the witness stand for the first time and recounted the shootings. He said "that shine" in victim Troy Canty's eyes and "that smile" made him snap.

Court papers show Goetz's annual income fell from $100,000 a year to about $20,000 in the years since the shooting, and he went through $60,000 in donations and $250,000 of his own money on legal costs.

But Mr Kuby said last week that he believed Goetz had a $100,000 inheritance now held by relatives. And under New York state law, Mr Cabey could collect 10 percent of Goetz's earnings for the next 20 years.

Regardless of his financial status, a verdict against Goetz was needed to "deter other people from doing the kind of thing Bernie Goetz did to Darrell Cabey," Mr Kuby told the jury.