When Richard Cohen {op-ed, June 18} states, "But when one by one he {Bernard Goetz} shot them, he committed a crime and so, in acquitting him, did his jury," is he asking us to discard our judicial system? Shall we be declared innocent or guilty depending on Mr. Cohen's judgment of the "facts"? I hope not, for the jury in this case put aside polemics and asked, "What would I have done?"

MAURICE LONG Springfield

It may come as a surprise, but not all blacks disagree with the decision in the Goetz case or believe that the decision was the result of a racism. After having had all of the evidence presented to it, the jury, which had two blacks on it, found that the prosecution had not satisfied its burden of proof. It is reasonable to conclude that the jury believed that Mr. Goetz acted out of genuine fear of bodily harm.

It is unfortunate that the subways in New York are so dangerous that Mr. Goetz felt he needed to carry a gun. But -- surprise! -- blacks also find the subways dangerous and would want to be able to defend themselves if accosted by a group of hoods. Perhaps the lack of security in the subway system is the real story. It is wrong of the media to give the impression that all blacks believe the jury made an improper decision.

I am one black who is willing to believe that the jury, after due deliberation, made the correct finding. I know that others do too. The case need not stand for anxiety about "open season" on blacks if the press responsibly reports that some blacks still support the jury's decision and are willing to believe that, given the facts of this case, it could only be decided the way it was. EDWARD HAYES JR. Washington

I am disturbed and puzzled by Jonathan Yardley's column {Style, June 22} on the Goetz verdict -- not because of what it says but because of what it doesn't say.

He correctly makes the point that a lot of apocalyptic hogwash has been committed on the subject. But in doing so, he completely misses the real point of the affair. What the Goetz case says to millions of Americans -- not just to "middle" but also "upper" and "lower" -- is that it's okay to tote a gun around and shoot at people who seem to be threatening you.

This, I insist, is a very dangerous message -- especially since it's the one that a great many people have been listening for. It scares the hell out of me, because it puts all of us, regardless of race or social class, in further jeopardy, not only from muggers and menaces but also from the scared and self-righteous.

It's absurd to blame this particular jury and pointless to cry mea culpa for society as a whole. What's important is to look at the consequences and to try to figure out a way to get the opposite message -- that vigilante justice is not okay -- stated loudly and unequivocally. The media, which took great pains to make the Goetz case appear to be apocalyptic, have considerable responsibility for counteracting its frightening consequences. HORACE G. OGDEN Gaithersburg

Richard Cohen's condemnation of Bernard Goetz and the jury that acquitted him hinges on Mr. Cohen's perception of "rational behavior." As the details of the case clearly indicate, what is irrational to Mr. Cohen is not necessarily considered irrational by some New Yorkers.

I think Mr. Goetz overreacted when he shot the youths who approached him for money, but I think such a reaction was reasonable given his past (his previous mugging and hospitalization for injuries sustained during the assault) and the realities of city life. Mr. Cohen made a valid point -- Mr. Goetz's attitude of "shoot first, ask questions later" was aggressive, dangerous and excessive; but in the mind of Bernard Goetz, it was also rational.

Consider the jury in the case. Some of them, because they also had been victims of crime, knew firsthand the fears of Mr. Goetz. All of the jurors, because they live in New York City, realized that Mr. Goetz's fears were legitimate. At some point in the trial, the jurors must have asked themselves: If I had been Goetz, might I have reacted in the same fashion? Were his actions reasonable given the circumstances? Based on the results of the trial, the jurors may not have praised Mr. Goetz's actions, but they seem to have understood them.

To Mr. Cohen, who is 250 miles removed from the grim realities of New York City, Bernard Goetz acted irrationally. But to those who live with these realities daily (among them the jury that heard the case), Mr. Goetz's behavior was rational. It's all a matter of perception. JOHN C. KATZ Falls Church