The case of Bernhard Hugo Goetz, the so-called "subway vigilante," will be submitted to a new grand jury, Manhattan District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau said today.
Morgenthau refused to comment on what new evidence may have been uncovered to permit the case to be reopened. A Manhattan grand jury in January refused to indict Goetz for attempted murder in the shooting of four black teen-agers last December on a subway train, instead charging the 37-year-old electronics engineer with possession of an illegal weapon.
State law bars taking a case to a grand jury twice unless the district attorney shows new evidence, procedural irregularities, or that the panel failed to make a complete and impartial investigation.
Morgenthau has said that the first grand jury did a serious and responsible job of investigating the case, although he did not agree with the panel's conclusion. He also said he has sought since January to find new evidence to reopen the case.
Joseph Kelner, one of Goetz's attorneys, blamed public pressure for forcing Morgenthau to ask for a second grand jury and said that if there is strong new evidence in the case, "we've never heard of it," the Associated Press reported.
William Kunstler, an attorney for one of those shot, applauded reopening the case, but called it "another political decision" by Morgenthau, resulting from a backlash of public sentiment against Goetz. Kunstler, who is representing Darrel Cabey, 19, who was paralyzed in the Dec. 22 incident, said an eyewitness who was not interviewed by the first grand jury has volunteered to testify that Goetz had an expression of "delight" on his face rather than of "fear" when he shot the youths. Such testimony could hurt Goetz's claim of self-defense.
In January, Morgenthau refused to grant immunity to Goetz or the youths, saying it could jeopardize other cases. Morgenthau had been confident, on the basis of Goetz's confession, that he would be indicted for attempted murder.
Troy Canty, 19, who touched off the incident by approaching Goetz on the subway train and asking for $5, said a few weeks ago that he had changed his mind and would testify before a new grand jury without immunity -- a development that would give the district attorney grounds to resubmit the case. But Canty's attorney, Howard R. Meyer, said Monday the youth had changed his mind after receiving death threats.
Meyer said today that he was skeptical of the existence of the eyewitness described by Kunstler. Meyer said he could not imagine why prosecutors would "go through a week of waiting for Troy Canty to give up his immunity" if they had such a "dynamite witness."
Goetz, initially praised as a hero who acted in self-defense, of late has been hit by a wave of negative publicity. As details of his confession emerged -- in particular, his admission that he fired a second shot at Cabey, who remains hospitalized -- public support for the gunman, particularly in the black community, has waned.
Goetz was unavailable for comment tonight.