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Crime of Self-defense: Bernhard Goetz and the Law on Trial

NCJ Number
G P Fletcher
Date Published
253 pages
This examination of the history and theory of the plea of self-defense and its usage uses the case of Bernhard Goetz as the basis for a consideration of the legal and moral implications of self-defense for contemporary urban life.
The analysis reviews the facts surrounding Goetz's shooting of four black youths on a New York subway in 1984, after one of the youths asked Goetz for $5. Goetz claimed that he fired in self-defense, but the State of New York indicted him on 13 counts, including assault and attempted murder as well as unlawful possession of a weapon. Goetz was eventually convicted and sentenced under New York's law prohibiting the possession of a loaded gun, without a permit, in a public place. The text provides detailed discussions of the defendant, the victims, the lawyers, the presiding judge, and each phase of the legal proceedings. Statutory and case law as well as the court's interpretation of the standards for self-defense are also examined in terms of their implications for the theory and practice of self-defense in relation to urban crime and safety, race relations, gun possession and control, and the conduct of criminal justice. Chapter notes and index.


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