The Trial of Bernhard Goetz: Testimony of Loren Michaels

Direct Examination by Gregory Waples:

Michaels:   I only noticed them [the black youths] for a few minutes. They seemed to be kind of laughing and moving around on the seats. And that was all I noticed. Then I went back to my own thoughts and didn't really notice them.

Waples: Were you, Loren Michael’s, frightened by any of their behavior?

Slotnick:  Objection....

[sidebar discussion:]

Justice Crane: ....It's a subjective state of mind that wouldn't necessarily be probative of Bernhard Goetz's reaction when they allegedly surrounded him. [Also] it doesn't relate in time to when the shots were fired and to the reasonableness of the situation as it was presented at that moment. It relates to a time prior to that when these witnesses were removed geographically from the kids.

Waples: I think it bears upon the question of how a reasonable person perceives circumstances.

Justice Crane: How do we know this individual and Mr. Flores are reasonable persons rather than frightened individuals that. . . exceed the bounds of what a reasonable person would be?

Waples: The jury does not have to accept their assessment of whether there was real danger, but they can consider whether an individual who they know something about, because that person has appeared as a witness, did or did not react in a fearful way to a set of circumstances.

Justice Crane:  I have difficulties with it.  I understand that you're both approaching it from certain strategic standpoints....It does open up for Mr. Slotnick an avenue with other witnesses to state that they were afraid. I implore you to think about it.

Waples: I've thought about it, Judge.

Justice Crane: Okay.

[open court:]

Michaels: I was kind of just half.dozing...[The first shots] seemed to come from outside the car....I tried to look down at that end of the car. Right at that moment, a woman to my right was holding a baby and started to get up, so I didn't have a clear view instantly. . . . She got past me and I could see down the center of the car. . . . I saw someone, slumping to the floor in a kind of fetal position near the bench that was directly across from me. . . . I [saw] someone who happened to be slumping in a seat .... It's a little vague to me now. There were other people I thought were perhaps part of the group, and I saw a young man--l don't know, in his twenties or so, blond hair-standing there. And I started at the same moment to move to the front doors to get out of the car with my friend [Christopher Boucher]....[W]e could hear that ambulances and police cars were rushing to the scene. I wanted to see if they brought, you know, anyone out on stretchers or [in] handcuffs, but after a minute or two Christopher really seemed shaken up, so we went uptown and went to a bar and had a quick drink.

Waples: Did you feel better?

Michaels: Yes. We then went Christmas shopping.

Waples: Did there come a time when you spoke to police on December 22?

Michaels: Yeah. We still didn't really understand what happened. It was just something crazy in the subway, and we actually bought a few things in SoHo. I saw a police car just sitting by the curb somewhere and thought just in case they were still looking for people, I could give my name and address, whatever. And when I explained to them we had been there, they asked if we could come downtown and they took us in the police car.

Waples: Referring to you and Mr. Boucher?

Michaels: Yes.

Waples: And were you interviewed by a detective later?

Michaels: Yes.

Cross-examination by Barry Slotnick:

Slotnick: But even at that distance [forty feet from the shootings] you found [the youths] noisy and rude?

Michaels: I didn't say rude particularly...

Slotnick: And isn't it also a matter of fact that you were concerned about your friend Christopher? In fact, you were nervous on his behalf?

Michaels: Yes.

Slotnick: And isn't it also a matter of fact that while you sat in the subway car, looking at that group of four, you tried to make sure that it wasn't going to be unpleasant for your friend Christopher in any way?

Michaels: Well, I assured myself that it wasn't going to be any disturbance that would bother us.

Slotnick: Quite clearly you understood that there might be a disturbance that would bother others. Isn't that correct?

Michaels: That's a possibility every time you ride the subway, you know.

Slotnick: How about on this occasion, Mr. Michaels?

Michaels: I counted it as a possibility....

Slotnick: After hearing those four or five shots in rapid succession, things seemed to move rather slowly in terms of what was happening around you. Is that correct?'

 Michaels: “Yeah, people started moving, but nobody seemed to get hysterical or anything....