Imagine if the man who killed your father or shot you square in the face was suddenly cross-examining you in the courtroom, badgering you for irrelevant details. Several survivors of the Long Island Railroad shooting on December 7, 1993, found themselves in this almost comically absurd situation during perpetrator Colin Ferguson’s trial.
Ferguson, citing institutional racism as the cause of his anger, had fired top attorney Ron Kuby, who was arguing for an insanity plea, and insisted on representing himself. Once his aghast victims took the stand, he asked them such outlandish questions as “Were you smiling when you thought the gunfire was just firecrackers?”
Had Charlie Minn’s documentary The Long Island Railroad Massacre zeroed in on this particular — and most interesting — aspect of the notorious event, it could have been an illuminating study on the trauma of being forced to face one’s mortal enemy and maintain one’s dignity while doing so.
As it stands, the film registers like a more compelling episode of A&E’s The First 48, complete with overwrought, ominous music and tacky re-enactments. That said, Minn should be commended for getting so many of the involved parties (with the notable exception of Ferguson) to open up on camera.
Their reflections will likely elicit tears from audiences. Three are especially wrenching: Kevin McCarthy, son of Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy, survived as his father died, and he’s still undergoing physical therapy; Mi-Won Kim, sister of the murdered Mi Kyung Kim, has not, unlike her parents, accepted her loss; and, most poignant of all, the macho Robert Giugliano, who begged for “five minutes alone” to beat Ferguson at his arraignment, is now a shell-shocked man who admits his vulnerability.