Murder of Kitty Genovese
from the New York Times article: "Thirty-Eight Who Saw Murder Didn't Call the Police"
|Born||Catherine Susan Genovese
July 7, 1935
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
|Died||March 13, 1964
Kew Gardens, New York, U.S.
|Cause of death||Murder by stabbing|
|Resting place||Lakeview Cemetery
New Canaan, Connecticut
|Education||Prospect Heights High School|
|Employer||Ev's Eleventh Hour Club
Hollis, New York, U.S.
|Known for||New York Times article about her murder|
|Partner(s)||Mary Ann Zielonko|
Catherine Susan "Kitty" Genovese (July 7, 1935 – March 13, 1964) was a New York City woman who was stabbed to death near her home in the Kew Gardens neighborhood of the borough of Queens in New York City, on March 13, 1964.
The circumstances of her murder and the lack of reaction of numerous neighbors were reported by a newspaper article published two weeks later; the common portrayal of neighbors being fully aware but completely non responsive has since been criticized as inaccurate. Nonetheless, it prompted investigation into the social psychological phenomenon that has become known as the bystander effect or "Genovese syndrome" and especially diffusion of responsibility.
Born in New York City, the daughter of Rachel (née Petrolli) and Vincent Andronelle Genovese, she was the eldest of five children in a lower-middle class Italian American family and was raised in Park Slope, Brooklyn. After her mother witnessed a murder in the city, the family moved to Connecticut in 1954. Genovese, nineteen at the time and a recent graduate of Prospect Heights High School in Brooklyn, chose to remain in the city, where she had lived for nine years. At the time of her death, she was working as a bar manager at Ev's Eleventh Hour Sports Bar on Jamaica Avenue and 193rd Street in Hollis, Queens. Genovese shared her Kew Gardens, Queens apartment at 80-20 Austin Street with her partner, Mary Ann Zielonko.
The events of Genovese's death are subject to dispute. Some accounts suggest that her cries for help were heard and ignored by numerous residents in the apartment building. Other accounts, as detailed below, suggest that residents did not hear her pleas or did provide assistance or both. The exact details are unknown.
Genovese had driven home from her job working as a bar manager early in the morning of March 13, 1964. Arriving home at about 3:15 am she parked in the Long Island Rail Road parking lot about 100 feet (30 m) from her apartment's door, located in an alley way at the rear of the building. As she walked towards the building she was approached by Winston Moseley. Frightened, Genovese began to run across the parking lot and towards the front of her building located on Austin Street trying to make it up to the corner towards the major thoroughfare of Lefferts Boulevard. Moseley ran after her, quickly overtook her and stabbed her twice in the back. Genovese screamed, "Oh my God, he stabbed me! Help me!" Her cry was heard by several neighbors but, on a cold night with the windows closed, only a few of them recognized the sound as a cry for help. When Robert Mozer, one of the neighbors, shouted at the attacker, "Let that girl alone!" Moseley ran away and Genovese slowly made her way toward the rear entrance of her apartment building. She was seriously injured, but now out of view of any witnesses.
Records of the earliest calls to police are unclear and were not given a high priority by the police. One witness said his father called police after the initial attack and reported that a woman was "beat up, but got up and was staggering around."
Other witnesses observed Moseley enter his car and drive away, only to return ten minutes later. In his car, he changed to a wide-brimmed hat to shadow his face. He systematically searched the parking lot, train station, and an apartment complex. Eventually, he found Genovese who was lying, barely conscious, in a hallway at the back of the building where a locked doorway had prevented her from entering the building. Out of view of the street and of those who may have heard or seen any sign of the original attack, Moseley proceeded to further attack her, stabbing her several more times. Knife wounds in her hands suggested that she attempted to defend herself from him. While Genovese lay dying, Moseley raped her. He stole about $49 from her and left her in the hallway. The attacks spanned approximately half an hour.
A few minutes after the final attack a witness, Karl Ross, called the police. Police arrived within minutes of Ross' call. Genovese was taken away by ambulance at 4:15 am and died en route to the hospital. Later investigation by police and prosecutors revealed that approximately a dozen (but almost certainly not the 38 cited in the Times article) individuals nearby had heard or observed portions of the attack, though none saw or were aware of the entire incident. Only one witness, Joseph Fink, was aware she was stabbed in the first attack, and only Karl Ross was aware of it in the second attack. Many were entirely unaware that an assault or homicide was in progress; some thought that what they saw or heard was a lovers' quarrel or a drunken brawl or a group of friends leaving the bar when Moseley first approached Genovese.
Booking photograph (April 1, 1964)
|Born||March 2, 1935|
|Charge(s)||Murder A1 (degree-less prior to September 1, 1974 in State of New York)
Robbery (second degree)
Attempted kidnapping (second degree)
|Penalty||Death reduced to life plus two 15-year sentences|
|Occupation||Remington-Rand machine operator|
|Residence||Clinton Correctional Facility|
Winston Moseley (born March 2, 1935), a then 29-year-old man from South Ozone Park, Queens, was apprehended by police six days after Genovese's murder during a house burglary. At the time of his arrest, Moseley was working as a "Remington Rand tab operator", had no prior criminal record, and was married with two children.
While in custody, Moseley confessed to killing Genovese. He detailed the attack, corroborating the physical evidence at the scene. His motive for the attack was simply "to kill a woman." Moseley preferred to kill women because, he said, "they were easier and didn't fight back". Moseley stated that he got up that night around 2:00 am, leaving his wife asleep at home, and drove around to find a victim. He spied Genovese and followed her to the parking lot. He confessed not only to the murder of Kitty Genovese, but also to two other murders of women, both involving sexual assaults. He also confessed to committing "30 to 40" burglaries. Subsequent psychiatric examinations suggested that Moseley was a necrophile.
Moseley's trial began on June 8, 1964 and was presided over by Judge J. Irwin Shapiro. Moseley initially pleaded "not guilty" but his plea was later changed by his attorney to "not guilty by reason of insanity". On Thursday, June 11, Moseley was called to testify by his attorney who hoped that Moseley's testimony would convince the jury would that he was "a schizophrenic personality and legally insane". During his testimony, Moseley described the events on the night he murdered Genovese, along with the two other murders he confessed to and numerous other burglaries and rapes. The jury deliberated for seven hours before returning a guilty verdict on June 11 at around 10:30 p.m.
On Monday, June 15, 1964, Moseley was sentenced to death. When the sentence was read by the jury foreman, Moseley showed no emotion while some spectators applauded and others cheered. When calm had returned, the Judge Shapiro added, "I don't believe in capital punishment, but when I see this monster, I wouldn't hesitate to pull the switch myself!" On June 1, 1967, the New York Court of Appeals found that Moseley should have been able to argue that he was "medically insane" at the sentencing hearing when the trial court found that he had been legally sane, and the initial death sentence was reduced to an indeterminate sentence/lifetime imprisonment.
On March 18, 1968, Moseley escaped from custody while being transported back to prison from Meyer Memorial Hospital in Buffalo, New York where he had undergone minor surgery for a self-inflicted injury. Moseley hit the transporting correctional officer, stole his weapon, and then fled to a nearby vacant home owned by a Grand Island couple, Mr. and Mrs. Matthew Kulaga. Moseley stayed at the residence undetected for three days. On March 21, the Kulagas went to check on the home where they encountered Moseley. He held the couple hostage for over an hour during which he bound and gagged Matthew Kulaga and raped his wife. He then took the couple's car and fled. Moseley made his way to Grand Island where, on March 22, he broke into another home and took a woman and her daughter hostage. He held them hostage for two hours before releasing them unharmed. Moseley surrendered to police shortly thereafter. He was later charged with escape and kidnapping to which he pleaded guilty. Moseley was given two additional fifteen-year sentences concurrent with his life sentence.
Moseley became eligible for parole in 1984. During his first parole hearing, Moseley told the parole board that the notoriety he faced due to his crimes also made him a victim stating, "For a victim outside, it's a one-time or one-hour or one-minute affair, but for the person who's caught, it's forever." At the same hearing, Moseley claimed he never intended to kill Genovese and that he considered her murder to be a mugging because "[...] people do kill people when they mug them sometimes." The board denied his request for parole. Moseley remains in prison after being denied parole a fifteenth time in November 2011. Moseley's next parole hearing is scheduled for November 2013.
Public reaction 
Many saw the story of Genovese's murder as emblematic of the callousness or apathy with which life in big cities, and New York in particular, is often associated. Much of this framing of the event came in reaction to an investigative article in The New York Times written by Martin Gansberg and published on March 27, two weeks after the murder. The article bore the headline "Thirty-Eight Who Saw Murder Didn't Call the Police." The public view of the story crystallized around a quote from the article by an unidentified neighbor who saw part of the attack but deliberated, before finally getting another neighbor to call the police, saying, "I didn't want to get involved."
Science-fiction author and cultural provocateur Harlan Ellison, in articles published in 1970 and 1971 in the Los Angeles Free Press and in Rolling Stone, referred to the witnesses as "thirty-six motherfuckers" and stating that they "stood by and watched" Genovese "get knifed to death right in front of them, and wouldn't make a move" and that "thirty-eight people watched" Genovese "get knifed to death in a New York street". In an article in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (June 1988), later reprinted in his book Harlan Ellison's Watching, Ellison referred to the murder as "witnessed by thirty-eight neighbors," citing reports he claimed to have read that one man turned up his radio so that he would not hear Genovese's screams. Ellison says that the reports attributed the "get involved" quote to nearly all of the thirty-eight who supposedly witnessed the attack.
While Genovese's neighbors were vilified by the articles, "thirty-eight onlookers who did nothing" is a misconception. The New York Times article begins:
The lead is dramatic but factually inaccurate. A 2007 study found many of the purported facts about the murder to be unfounded. The study found "no evidence for the presence of 38 witnesses, or that witnesses observed the murder, or that witnesses remained inactive".
None of the witnesses observed the attacks in their entirety. Because of the layout of the complex and the fact that the attacks took place in different locations, no witness saw the entire sequence of events. Most only heard portions of the incident without realizing its seriousness, a few saw only small portions of the initial assault, and no witnesses directly saw the final attack and rape, in an exterior hallway. Additionally, after the initial attack punctured her lungs, leading to her eventual death from asphyxiation, it is unlikely that she was able to scream at any volume. Only one witness, Joseph Fink, was aware she was stabbed in the first attack, and only Karl Ross (the neighbor who called police) was aware of it in the second attack. Many were entirely unaware that an assault or homicide was in progress; some thought that what they saw or heard was a lovers' quarrel or a drunken brawl or a group of friends leaving the bar when Moseley first approached Genovese.
Nevertheless, media attention to the Genovese murder led to reform of the NYPD's telephone reporting system; the system in place at the time of the assault was often hostile to callers, inefficient and directed individuals to the incorrect department. The intense press coverage also led to serious investigation of the bystander effect by psychologists and sociologists. In addition, some communities organized Neighborhood Watch programs and the equivalent for apartment buildings to aid people in distress.
Psychological research 
The lack of reaction of numerous neighbors watching the scene prompted research into diffusion of responsibility and the bystander effect. Social psychologists John Darley and Bibb Latané started this line of research, showing that contrary to common expectations, larger numbers of bystanders decrease the likelihood that someone will step forward and help a victim. The reasons include the fact that onlookers see that others are not helping either, that onlookers believe others will know better how to help, and that onlookers feel uncertain about helping while others are watching. The Kitty Genovese case thus became a classic feature of social psychology textbooks.
In September 2007, the American Psychologist published an examination of the factual basis of coverage of the Kitty Genovese murder in psychology textbooks. The three authors concluded that the story is more parable than fact, largely because of inaccurate newspaper coverage at the time of the incident. According to the authors, "despite this absence of evidence, the story continues to inhabit our introductory social psychology textbooks (and thus the minds of future social psychologists)." One interpretation of the parable is that the drama and ease of teaching the exaggerated story makes it easier for professors to capture student attention and interest.
Psychologist Frances Cherry has suggested the interpretation of the murder as an issue of bystander intervention is incomplete. She has pointed to additional research such as that of Borofsky and Shotland demonstrating that people, especially at that time, were unlikely to intervene if they believed a man was attacking his wife or girlfriend. She has suggested that the issue might be better understood in terms of male/female power relations.
According to The New York Times, in an article dated December 28, 1974, ten years after the murder, 25-year-old Sandra Zahler was beaten to death early Christmas morning in an apartment of the building that overlooked the site of the Genovese attack. Neighbors again said they heard screams and "fierce struggles" but did nothing.
Moseley returned for another parole hearing on March 13, 2008, the 44th anniversary of Genovese's murder. The previous week, Moseley had turned 73 years old, and had still shown little remorse for murdering Genovese. Parole was denied. Being denied parole again in November 2011, he will be eligible for parole next in November 2013. Genovese's brother, Vincent, was unaware of the 2008 hearing until he was contacted by Daily News reporters. Vincent Genovese has reportedly never "recovered from the horror" of his sister's murder. "This brings back what happened to her", Vincent had said; "the whole family remembers".
In popular culture 
The story of the witnesses who did nothing "is taught in every [sic] introduction to psychology textbook in the United States and Britain, and in many other countries... and has been made popularly known through television programs and books," and even a song.
- 1964: A. M. Rosenthal's book Thirty-Eight Witnesses: The Kitty Genovese Case explored the incident.
- November 21, 1965: Perry Mason episode "The Case of the Silent Six" portrayed the brutal beating of a young woman whose screams for help were ignored by the six residents of her small apartment building. The "get involved" quote was spoken once by Paul Drake and paraphrased by several other characters.
- 1966: Folk singer Phil Ochs was inspired by Kitty Genovese's murder to write the 1967 song "Outside of a Small Circle of Friends". This song related five different situations that should demand action on the part of the narrator, but in each case the narrator concluded that "I'm sure it wouldn't interest anybody outside of a small circle of friends".
- 1974: The murder of Kitty Genovese was the inspiration for Harlan Ellison's short story "The Whimper of Whipped Dogs".
- 1975: An American TV movie Death Scream, starring Raul Julia, was based on the murder.
- 1985: Twilight Eyes, a horror novel by Dean R. Koontz refers to the murder as motivation for the main characters to take action.
- 1986: Genovese's murder was a pivotal event in the graphic novel Watchmen. Protagonist Rorschach originally becomes a masked vigilante because of it.
- 1996: An episode of Law & Order, "Remand", is loosely based on the Genovese case.
- 1999: The crime thriller film The Boondock Saints uses the incident as an example of good men doing nothing.
- 2000: In his best-selling book, The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell refers to the case and the "bystander effect" as evidence of contextual cues for human responses.
- 2006: The History Channel produced a documentary on the murder as episode 15.2 of their History's Mysteries series.
- 2009: The 2009 novel Good Neighbors by Ryan David Jahn was based on the murder.
- 2009: Didier Decoin's novel Est-ce ainsi que les femmes meurent? ("Is this how women die?") is based on the murder. It was subsequently adapted to film in 2012 as 38 témoins ("38 Witnesses"), directed by Lucas Belvaux. The movie has been reset in Le Havre, France.
- 2009: SuperFreakonomics, by Steven Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, uses the murder of Kitty Genovese as a case study in the book's chapter on altruism.
- 2009: In the film Watchmen Kitty Genovese appears as a character who orders a dress made from the signature "Moving Ink Blot" material. After her murder, Rorschach, the creator of the dress, uses the material to create his mask and begins to fight crime, saying that the murder opened his eyes, and he became ashamed of Humanity.
- 2011: Andrew Jackson Jihad's song "Big Bird" from their album Knife Man contains the lyric "I'm afraid of the social laziness that let Kitty Genovese die."
See also 
- Civil courage
- Volunteer's dilemma
- Death of Wang Yue
- Murder of Esther Mwikamba
- Murder of Penny Bell
- Murder of Daniel Morgan
- Demay, Joseph. "Kitty Genovese". A Picture History of Kew Gardens, NY. Archived from the original on February 23, 2007. Retrieved March 12, 2007.
- Kenneth T. Jackson: The Encyclopedia of New York City: The New York Historical Society; Yale University Press; 1995. P. 458.
- "Queens Woman Is Stabbed to Death in Front of Home". New York Times. March 14, 1964. p. 26. Retrieved July 5, 2007.
- Jim Rasenberger "Nightmare on Austin Street" American Heritage, Oct. 2006.
- Dubner & Levitt, Superfreakonomics, William Morrow; First Edition (October 20, 2009)
- Dowd, Maureen (March 12, 1984). "20 years after the murder of Kitty Genovese, The question remains: Why?". New York Times. p. B1. Retrieved July 5, 2007.
- Rasenberger, Jim (February 8, 2004). "Kitty, 40 Years Later". nytimes.com. Retrieved February 9, 2013.
- Gado, Mark. "The Kitty Genovese Murder". trutv.com. p. 2. Retrieved February 9, 2013.
- "Sound Portraits: Remembering Kitty Genovese" (Transcript), NPR (March 13, 2004)
- Carrie Rentschler, The Physiognomic Turn, International Journal of Communication 4 (2010), Feature 231–236.
- Krajicek, David (March 13, 2011). "The killing of Kitty Genovese: 47 years later, still holds sway over New Yorkers". New York Daily News. Retrieved December 6, 2011.
- Manning, R.; Levine, M; Collins, A. (September 2007). "The Kitty Genovese murder and the social psychology of helping: The parable of the 38 witnesses". American Psychologist 62 (6): 555–562. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.62.6.555. PMID 17874896.
- Rosenthal, A.M. (1964). Thirty-Eight Witnesses: The Kitty Genovese Case. University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-21527-3.
- On This Day: NYC Woman Killed as Neighbors Look On
- Gado, p.9
- Martin Gansberg, "Thirty-Eight Who Saw Murder Didn't Call the Police," New York Times, March 27, 1964.
- Gado, p.5
- Aggrawal, p. 144.
- Aggrawal, Anil. Necrophilia: Forensic and Medico-Legal Aspects. New York: CRC Press, 2010, p. 143-147.
- "N.Y. Murder Case Unfolds". The News and Courier. June 25, 1964. pp. 9–B. Retrieved February 9, 2013.
- Gado, p.8
- "Court Applauds Death Sentence". The Windsor Star. June 16, 1964. p. 8. Retrieved February 9, 2013.
- Maiorana, Ronald. "Genovese Slayer Wins Life Sentence in Appeal." New York Times. June 2, 1967.
- "Killers' Terror Rampage Retold". The Evening News. December 3, 1969. Retrieved February 9, 2013.
- Dwyer, Kevin; Fiorillo, Juré (2006). True Stories of Law & Order: The Real Crimes Behind the Best Episodes of the Hit TV Show. Penguin. p. 58. ISBN 0-425-21190-8.
- "Couple Is Held Captive By Escaped Murderer". Reading Eagle. March 21, 1968. p. 22. Retrieved February 9, 2013.
- "Fugitive Killer Gives Up". Edmonton Journal. March 22, 1968. p. 5. Retrieved February 9, 2013.
- "Genovese killer's parole denied". Lakeland Ledger. February 1, 1984. p. 10A. Retrieved February 9, 2013.
- Barry, Dan (May 26, 2006). "Once Again, A Killer Makes His Pitch". New York Times. p. b1. Retrieved March 28, 2008.
- Gado, p.10
- McShane, Larry (March 10, 2008). "Deny parole to '64 Kitty Genovese horror killer, says victim's brother". nydailynews.com. Retrieved April 15, 2013.
- Smith, Greg B. (August 5, 1995). "KITTY KILLER: I'M VICTIM TOO SAYS NOTORIETY CAUSES HIM HURT". nydailynews.com. Retrieved February 9, 2013.
- "Genovese murderer denied parole again". Queens Chronicle. November 10, 2011. Retrieved November 14, 2011.
- "No parole again for killer of NYC's Kitty Genovese". Wall Street Journal. Associated Press. November 8, 2011. Retrieved November 14, 2011.
- Moseley's prison records, accessible with DIN=64-A-0102 or by name
- Harlan Ellison, "62: May 1, 70" in The Other Glass Teat (Ace, 1983), p. 61)
- Harlan Ellison, "92: January 8, 71" in The Other Glass Teat (Ace, 1983), p. 333)
- Harlan Ellison, "100: March 26, 71" in The Other Glass Teat (Ace, 1983), p. 383).
- Jarrett, Christian (October 23, 2007). "The truth behind the story of Kitty Genovese and the bystander effect". Retrieved November 14, 2011.
- Manning, Mark; Levine; Collins, Alan (September 2008). "The Kitty Genovese Murder and the Social Psychology of Helping: the parable of the 38 witnesses". American Psychologist (American Psychological Association) 62 (6): 555. Retrieved November 14, 2011.
- "The Witnesses That Didn't". On The Media. March 27, 2009. Retrieved April 7, 2009. "BROOKE GLADSTONE: Wasn't she screaming during the second attack? JOSEPH DE MAY: The wounds that she apparently suffered during the first attack, the two to four stabs in the back, caused her lungs to be punctured, and the testimony given at trial is that she died not from bleeding to death but from asphyxiation. The air from her lungs leaked into her thoracic cavity, compressing the lungs, making it impossible for her to breathe. I am not a doctor, but as a layman my question is, if someone suffers that type of lung damage, are they even physically capable of screaming for a solid half hour?"
- Cherry, F. (1995) The Stubborn Particulars of Social Psychology: Essays on the research process, London, Routledge.
- Borofsky, G.; Stollak, G.; Messe, L. (1971). "Bystander reactions to physical assault: Sex differences in reactions to physical assault". Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 7: 313–18.
- Shotland, R. L.; Straw, M. K. (1976). "Bystander response to an assault: when a man attacks a woman". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 34: 990–9.
- Gansberg, Martin (March 12, 1965). "Yes, Witnesses Report; Neighbors Have Doubts; MURDER STREET: WOULD THEY AID?". The New York Times. p. 35.
- Robert D. McFadden, "A Model's Dying Screams Are Ignored At the Site of Kitty Genovese's Murder", New York Times December 27, 1974, retrieved March 7, 2007.
- On 1 Foot, Jewish Texts for Social Justice, which uses a quotation from pages 28–29 as an example.
- Perry Mason: The Case of the Silent Six at IMDB
- Unterberger, Richie (2003). Eight Miles High: Folk-Rock's Flight from Haight-Ashbury to Woodstock. San Francisco: Backbeat Books. p. 94. ISBN 0-87930-743-9.
- Schumacher, Michael (1996). There But for Fortune: The Life of Phil Ochs. New York: Hyperion. p. 156. ISBN 0-7868-6084-7.
- Ellison, Harlan. Introduction to No Doors, No Windows (1975), quoted at Harlan Ellison's Webderland: Book Reviews
- Marill, Alvin H. Movies Made For Television, Da Capo Press, Inc., reprint by arrangement with Arlington House Publishers, New York, NY, 1980.
- Koontz, Dean R. Twilight Eyes, Berkley Books (1985)
- Jamie A Hughes, "Who Watches the Watchmen?": Ideology and "Real World" Superheroes, The Journal of Popular Culture, Volume 39, Issue 4, pages 546–557, August 2006
- Courrier, Kevin; Green, Susan (1999). Law & Order: The Unofficial Companion -- Updated and Expanded (2 ed.). Macmillan. p. 253. ISBN 1-580-63108-8.
- IMDB Silent Witnesses: The Kitty Genovese Murder (TV episode #15.2)
- Interview with Ryan David Jahn
- Crimesquad.com Book review of Acts of Violence, by David Jahn
- Skoller, Charles E. (2008). Twisted Confessions: The True Story Behind the Kitty Genovese and Barbara Kralik Murder Trials. Bridgeway Books. p. 228. ISBN 1-934454-17-6.
- Winston Moseley's confession
- Joseph De May Jr., "Kitty Genovese: What you think you know about the case might not be true." A reinvestigation by a member of the Richmond Hill Historical Society, this comes in two versions:
- Phil Ochs' "Outside of a Small Circle of Friends" lyrics
- Jim Rasenberger, "Kitty 40 Years Later," The New York Times (February 8, 2004) (On the Middlesex County College Web Site)
- Jim Rasenberger, "Kitty 40 Years Later," The New York Times (February 8, 2004). On the New York Times web site directly.
- "Kitty Genovese, Revised" The Wilson Quarterly (Winter 2007)
- John Darley. Bystander Intervention in Emergencies: Diffusion of Responsibility
- Remembering Kitty Genovese Includes interview with Mary Ann Zielonko and crime scene photograph.
- Picture History of Kew Gardens, NY
- Kitty Genovese at Find a Grave