New York Court of Appeals
Chief Justice Sol Wachtler
On December 22, 1984, Darryl Cabey, James Ramseur, Troy Canty and Barry Allen were on the same subway car with Bernhard Goetz. Canty approached Goetz and demanded five dollars. At this point, Goetz stood up, pulled out an unlicensed .38 pistol and fired four shots at the four boys, establishing a “pattern of fire.” None of the boys displayed a weapon or otherwise threatened Goetz. Goetz fled the scene but turned himself into police days later. He claimed he was carrying the weapon because he had previously been mugged. Charge:
Goetz was originally charged with criminal possession of a weapon in the third and fourth degrees. After the prosecutor appealed, he was indicted by a grand jury and charged with four counts of attempted murder and assault in addition to the weapons charges. Statute:
Criminal possession of a weapon in the third degree (Section 265.02): a person is guilty when they have committed the crime of criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree (Section 265.01) and such person possesses a loaded firearm. Criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree: a person is guilty if they possess any firearm. Attempted murder: a person is guilty if the crime attempted is murder in the first degree (Section 35.15). Assault: a person is guilty of assault in the first degree when with intent to cause serious physical injury to another person, he causes such injury to such person or to a third person by means of a deadly weapon or a dangerous instrument (Section 120.10). Issue:
Whether Bernhard Goetz’s use of deadly force was justified, given that he was not verbally or physically threatened by the four boys warranted. Should the justification of self-defense be based on a subjective or objective standard? Holding:
A person must have more reason to believe a physical threat by another is imminent other than that individual’s own judgment in...