Attorneys for Bernhard Hugo Goetz, the so-called "subway vigilante," failed to persuade a state Supreme Court justice today to block the second grand jury investigation of the case that began Monday.
The new panel heard testimony from one of four black teen-agers shot by Goetz in December in a Manhattan subway train that Goetz was not surrounded, threatened or robbed by the victims.
That information came from attorney Ronald Kliegerman, describing the testimony of his client, James Ramseur, 19, who was wounded in the left arm and chest by Goetz.
The encounter, Kliegerman said, was "more in the nature of panhandling rather than shaking down Mr. Goetz." Goetz, 37, has said that he shot the four in self-defense after they demanded $5.
In January, a grand jury refused to indict the electronics expert for attempted murder, charging him instead with possession of an illegal weapon.
Public opinion began turning against Goetz recently when it became known that he had told New Hampshire police after his surrender that he had shot one of the youths twice, including once as the youth lay wounded on the subway floor.
Supreme Court Justice Stephen S. Crane, who presided at today's hearing, authorized reopening the case after Manhattan District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau said his office had found "significant new evidence" justifying it.
Defense attorney Barry Slotnick argued in a Manhattan court today that the prosecution's new evidence was nothing more than "old wine in a new bottle."
Crane disagreed, saying, "The nature of the evidence was proper and was probed in detail." He added that the "new evidence was unknown at the first presentation."
Without offering specifics, Assistant District Attorney Robert M. Pitler said, "We have different wine in a different bottle, and this time it's champagne."
Later, Pitler, who estimated that the grand jury proceedings will take 10 days, told reporters that the prosecution has a "witness that did not testify before the first grand jury." He refused to say whether Ramseur is that witness.
Defense attorneys told reporters that they were neither "surprised" nor "disappointed" by Crane's decision today. They said they hope that the new grand jury will hear the same evidence presented to the first, particularly Goetz's videotaped confession to New Hampshire police.
Goetz, who was not present today, has told his lawyers that he is willing to testify before the grand jury if asked.
Ramseur, granted immunity from prosecution for testifying, told the New York Daily News Monday, "I want to see Bernie Goetz fry . . . . I don't know why he shot me -- he shot me for no reason."
Ramseur added that he told the grand jury a "different" version of what happened. "I want the people to know that I didn't try to rob him . . . ," he told the News