Bernhard Goetz closed case files

Collection REC0073 - RG 007. New York County District Attorney


On December 22, 1984, Bernard H. Goetz shot and wounded four men in a New York City subway train as an alleged act of self-defense. The incident gained national attention and resulted in a controversial case that involved several appeals and motions. This collection contains the files from the New York County District Attorney’s office for the criminal case and various subsequent motions.


14.5 cubic feet (29 boxes)


1962-1991, bulk 1985-1987

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research. Portions of this collection are restricted under United States privacy laws. Advance notice is required for using original material. Please contact us to arrange access.

Physical Location

Materials are stored at 31 Chambers Street in Manhattan.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

In 2013, the New York County District Attorney closed case files (6919 cubic feet) were transferred to the New York City Municipal Archives and accessioned (ACC-2013-020). The case file for Bernhard Goetz was part of that accession.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Rossy Mendez 2020-2022.

The New York County District Attorney’s Bernhard Goetz closed case files; case file number 1914-85 contains files related to the People v Bernhard Goetz case. The files include court transcripts, legal briefs and opinions, notices of motions, correspondence, statements, photographs, and audiovisual material. It also includes newspaper clippings, general correspondence, and petitions sent to the District Attorney’s office. The district attorney’s office created the records for the criminal trial in 1986; however, also included are records gathered by the District Attorney’s office for other cases associated with Goetz, including the prosecution of James Ramseur’s rape case Darrell Cabey’s civil suit.

A significant portion of the collection is restricted for 50 years per the New York District Attorney’s office agreement. These records include attorney notes, ballistic reports, and victim information. In addition, other information such as medical records and Grand Jury Minutes is restricted according to state and federal law.

The District Attorney’s office is responsible for prosecuting criminal offenses and New York State laws violations. On January 25, 1985, a grand jury indicted Bernhard Goetz for three counts of illegal gun possession after Goetz shot four men in a New York City subway train. Goetz wounded four African American youths, Barry Allen, James Ramseur, Troy Canty, and Darrell Cabey. The jury did not indict Goetz on other attempted murder and assault charges. On March 14, 1985, due to new evidence and increased media attention, Robert Morgenthau petitioned Justice Stephen G. Crane to resubmit charges of attempted murder and four charges of assault.

A second jury indicted Bernhard Goetz for four charges of attempted murder, four charges for assault, and one for reckless endangerment.

The defense led by Barry Slotnick argued that there was insufficient evidence for the new charges and filed a motion to dismiss on October 14, 1985. In light of a testimony to the press that implied perjury Judge Stephen Crane dismissed the charges and stated that Goetz’s actions could be considered reasonable.

On July 8, 1986, Chief Judge Sol Watchler of the New York State Court of Appeals issued a final opinion and reinstated all the indictment charges. The trial against Bernhard Goetz started on December 12, 1986, and Gregory Waples and Robert M. Pitler prosecuted the defendant. The jury found Goetz guilty of criminal possession of a weapon in the 3rd degree on June 16, 1987. The jury acquitted Goetz for all other attempted murder, assault, and illegal possession charges.

In April 1996, a civil suit filed by one of the victims, Darrell Cabey and his lawyer William Kunstler, reached a resolution finding Goetz responsible for inflicting permanent harm on Cabey. Cabey, whose injuries from the shooting resulted in brain damage and paralysis, was awarded 43 million dollars. Goetz subsequently filed for bankruptcy.


  1. People v Bernhard Goetz 68 N.Y. 2d 96 (1986)
The records in this collection were kept in original order in one series.

Series Outline

Guide to the Bernhard Goetz closed case files, 1962-1991, bulk 1985-1987
Rossy Mendez
June 2022
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description