The Trial of Bernhard Goetz: Testimony of Peter Smith

Direct Examination by Barry Slotnick:

[Slotnick asked Smith to relate a conversation he said he had with one of the injured youths [Troy Canty] he found lying on the floor of the subway train.]

Smith: I asked him if he was all right, and he said, "No, I am shot. " I said, "Where are you shot?" He said, "In the chest." I said, "What happened?" and he said, "We were going to rob him but he shot us first."  And I asked him what the person looked like and he described the person to me.

Cross-examination by Gregory Waples:

Waples: ....You were obviously concerned with your personal safety because as far as you knew there was a person with a gun and an inclination to use that gun aboard the subway in which you were entering, is that right?

Smith: Yes....

Waples: Now, at this point, you were excited, Officer Smith, were you not?

Smith: Yes.

Waples: I mean, you found four persons who had actually been shot lying in a subway car, right?

Smith: Yes.

Waples: And you were a new police officer; you'd never seen actually one shooting victim before, had you? Before December 22, 1984?

Smith: No.

Waples: And you certainly hadn't seen four, right? Especially in the close confines of a subway car, right?

Smith: No.

Waples: You were excited, right?

Smith: Yes.

Waples: On the other hand, you had a person who was lying in front of you with a gunshot wound in his chest, near his heart. You knew that, right?

Smith: Yes.

Waples: Let me ask you this, Officer Smith. Is there any possibility in all honesty that you misunderstood or miscommunicated with this individual who was lying on the floor in front of you with the wound in his chest? Well, let me ask you this.  Is it possible that he said, "'The white guy must have thought we were trying to rob him and that is why he shot us" or words to that effect?"

Smith: No.

Waples: That is not at all possible?

Smith: That is not what I heard .

Waples: And are you saying that it's impossible that he said, "I tried to rob the white guy," as opposed to, "We tried to rob him"?

Smith: No, I remember specifically.

Waples: Those words ring clear in your head today, two-and-a half years later. Isn't that right?

Smith: Yes....

Waples: Well, isn't it a fact that on November 27, 1985, you said to Detective Parr and Detective Harvey that one of the kids had said something to you, and that they in turn asked you, "Who did you tell this to?" and you said, "No one"?"

Smith: I believe I said I was never interviewed.

Waples: Do you deny making a statement, "I told no one" to Detective Parr?

Smith: I don' t deny it.

Waples: So, it's possible you said that?

Smith: It's possible...

Re-direct examination by Barry Slotnick:  

[Slotnick asked about what Smith told Detective Clark on December 22, 1984.]

Smith: I remember going upstairs to the second floor to tell the detectives that a statement was made to me. When I got up to the second floor I saw Detective Clark talking with one or two individuals out in the hall.. . . I told him that statements were made to me by one of the perps-or one of the victims.

Slotnick: And what did he say to you?

Smith: "Don't worry about it. I will get back to you."

Slotnick: And did he ever get back to you?

Smith: Later.

Slotnick: And when you say "later," how much later?

Smith: About eight months....

Re-cross by Gregory Waples:

[Following Smith's testimony, WNBC-TV discovered in their files a videotaped interview with Smith from the day of the shootings. On the videotape, which re-aired that night on local television, Smith was in uniform, seated in the driver's seat of his patrol car. A reporter asked, "What did the victims have to say?" "They just gave me a quick description," Smith answered. "He said that they were involved in--They said they were just fooling around with the guy, so I would assume that that would be possibly harrassment. I'm not sure. It's hard to say.  It all happened so quick. We were only there a couple of seconds."]

Waples began his re-cross by asking Smith if he had told the WNBC-TV reporter the truth.

Smith: In substance.

Waples: "In substance.'' That's an interesting word. . . . Was your testimony yesterday. . . the truth in substance?

Smith: My testimony was the truth.

Waples: Just the way your account to the news reporter was the truth?

Smith: That was different.

Waples: Well, are there degrees of truth in your own mind?

Smith: No.

Waples: Did you lie to that reporter, Officer Smith?

Smith: Somewhat.

Waples: You had forgotten about that little interview until late last night when your wife called it to your attention, isn't that right?

Smith: Yes.

Waples: And isn't it a fact, sir, that. . . on December 22, when you walked into that car and kneeled down to the person who was shot in the chest, he didn't say anything about trying to rob the white guy, did he?

Smith: Yes, he did.

Waples: He did? You stand by your testimony?

Smith: Yes.

Waples: Isn't it a fact, sir, he never said anything at all about a robbery?

Smith: Yes.

Waples: You know, as a police officer, even a relatively inexperienced police officer, Officer Smith, you know there is all the difference in the world between someone fooling around with a guy and someone robbing him, right?

Smith: Yes, sir.

Re-direct examination by Barry Slotnick:

Slotnick: Now, why did you say that to the TV reporter?

Smith: I was nervous and had never been interviewed before. And I had what I thought was a very important statement that had to be made...And I wasn't about to put it over national TV or what might have been on national TV before I told the detective or someone in charge of the investigation.

Slotnick: Isn't it correct that you almost did give away the statement when you said, "'He said they were involved in-" and then you went on to say, "They were just fooling around with the guy"?

Waples: Objection. [overruled]

Smith:  It appears that way....