April 5, 2016

"[Kitty] Genovese, 28, cried: 'Oh, my God, he stabbed me! Help me! Help me!' — and was heard in apartments overhead, perhaps by a dozen people..."

"... the number was never precisely determined. Lights went on. Eyes looked out."
“I heard a girl saying, ‘Help me, help me,’” Robert Mozer testified. “It wasn’t a scream, more of a cry. I got up and looked out, and across the street a girl was kneeling down, and this fellow was bending over her. I hollered: ‘Hey, get out of there! What are you doing?’ He jumped up and ran like a scared rabbit. She got up and walked out of sight, around a corner.”

In his confession, [Winston] Moseley said, “I had a feeling this man would close his window and go back to sleep, and sure enough he did.” In court, he said, “I realized the car was parked where people could see it, and me, so I moved it some distance away.” Mr. Moseley also said he had changed from a stocking cap to a wide-brim hat to cover his face, then walked back to the scene.

“I came back because I’d not finished what I set out to do,” he testified.

He found Ms. Genovese lying in a hallway at the rear of the building. She was “twisting and turning” on the floor, bleeding and still crying for help, he recalled. He resumed his attack, “and I don’t know how many times or where I stabbed her till she was fairly quiet.” Investigators said he stabbed her a dozen times, stifling her last cries and raping her before escaping.
The year was 1964. Winston Moseley died last week at the age of 81 — in prison. We were talking about him here last November, when he — as the longest-serving inmate in New York — was denied parole for the 18th time. The parole board regarded his statement — "I know that I did some terrible things, and I've tried very hard to atone for those things in prison... I think almost 50 years of paying for those crimes is enough" — as "still minimiz[ing] the gravity" of what he had done and "not exhibit[ing] much insight."

The case became symbolic of the "bystander effect" (or "the Kitty Genovese syndrome"). The descriptions of people hearing and doing nothing were exaggerated. In truth, none of the neighbors "saw the attack in its entirety": "Only a few had glimpsed parts of it, or recognized the cries for help. Many thought they had heard lovers or drunks quarreling."

47 comments:

traditionalguy said...

A gun free city without pity.

prairie wind said...

The parole board regarded his statement — "I know that I did some terrible things, and I've tried very hard to atone for those things in prison... I think almost 50 years of paying for those crimes is enough" — as "still minimiz[ing] the gravity" of what he had done and "not exhibit[ing] much insight."

Parole boards ought to look harder at whether the guy is likely to do it again instead of deciding whether he expressed remorse to their satisfaction. Is he minimizing the gravity of his actions or is he expressing frustration with the knowledge that he's never leaving prison?

Brando said...

While the initial account was exaggerated (in terms of bystanders knowing what was happening and none of them calling for help, when in fact some did call the police), the bystander effect is real. If someone is having a heart attack on the street, don't simply say "someone call for help!" because everyone in the crowd will assume someone else will, and won't feel personal responsibility to do so. Instead, point to one person and say "you, there, call for help!" so they know it is on them to do so and if they can't for some reason you can pick another volunteer.

Kitty Genovese is an argument for concealed carry if there ever was one. But I suppose our blue state betters know what's best for us.

Bob Ellison said...

"I've tried very hard to atone for those things in prison..."

That was not the purpose of his imprisonment. The purpose was removal from society. You don't ask a wart to atone for its act on your skin. You remove it.

Another thing lefties don't understand.

Bay Area Guy said...

Mostly debunked

The story - black predator rapes white working girl at 3:00 am in the morning - didn't fit the 1964 narrative the NY Times wanted - civil rights, racial understanding, independent young women, etc, etc. So, the NY Times shifted the angle to cruel indifference of the white Queens neighborhood.

Daniel said...

Wow, this is bizarre for anyone who watched the episode of "Girls" this week that featured a play based on this!

Alexander said...

To be fair, it would have been really embarrassing if any of those people had called the cops and it turned out to be an alarm clock or something. That might open up a $15 million lawsuit against the city and exclamations that the bystanders were racist.

If you see something, check your comparative privilege to the aggressor before you say something!

PuertoRicoSpaceport.com said...

No mention of how Abe Rosenthal, then editor of the NY Times fabricated pretty much all of the story? For sensational, political, reasons?

Come on Ann, you can do better than that.

http://nypost.com/2014/02/16/book-reveals-real-story-behind-the-kitty-genovese-murder/

Yes, Genovese was murdered but that is pretty much all the Times got right about the story.

John Henry

Peter said...

"Parole boards ought to look harder at whether the guy is likely to do it again."

I agree that producing a convincing display of emotion on demand seems a poor test, but, how would you know whether he's still a risk?

Prediction is really difficult, especially about the future; and, experts don't seem to be any better than anyone else in predicting who will be criminally violent and who won't.

Eric the Fruit Bat said...

"Would I lay down my life to save my brother? No, but I would to save two brothers or eight cousins."

-- J. B. S. Haldane

Bay Area Guy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
PuertoRicoSpaceport.com said...

If Rosenthal had not blown up the story beyond normal coverage, how much time would the guy have spent in jail for murdering Kitty Genovese?

Moral of the story: If you are going to murder someone, make sure that the murder does not become famous.

Note: I am not saying the murderer should not have died in jail. He should have died in the electric chair back in the 60s. I am saying that not many non-famous murderers serve this much time.

John Henry

MayBee said...

I wonder how much cell phones would have changed what happened.

Not only might Kitty have had a phone from which to call for help, but also bystanders. In 1965 you had to go to your window, then go somewhere else in your home to get the phone. You may not be able to both watch the situation and call the police at the same time. I don't even know if there was 911 in NY in 1964. There wasn't speed dial.
So someone would have had to walk to the window, try to see what was happening, then go into their kitchen, get the phone book, get their phone, and call, having no idea whether it was just two drunk people having a spat who have now moved on.

In contrast, cell phones with auto dial make it so easy to report a crime and to watch what's going on. Such a big difference.

Darrell said...

That the murderer died of natural causes is the real tragedy.

Beth said...

Yes... crazy to read this after seeing Sunday's Girls.

Birkel said...

One round could have saved everybody a lot of expense.

Birkel said...

Somebody watched Girls?

Althouse's blog is breaking news.

prairie wind said...

how would you know whether he's still a risk?

Murderers have the lowest recidivism rate of all. That's a starting point.

With 2.4 million incarcerated in the U.S., parole boards ought to be putting people on parole unless the risk is unquestionably high.

I've never served on a parole board so I can only imagine how much parole boards want to prevent any possibility of being blamed if something goes wrong. When dealing with someone's freedom, that is not a noble instinct.

Unknown said...

Should have executed this blight on humanity 50 years ago.

Quaestor said...

Judge Irwin Shapiro said this after the jury convicted Winston Moseley, "I don't believe in capital punishment, but when I see a monster like this, I wouldn't hesitate to pull the switch myself."

Isn't that clinching argument in favor of capital punishment, an intimate sanction fitted to deal with the most heinous monsters? How someone could rise to a judgeship and not grasp this salient point is the height of banality.

Darrell said...

how would you know whether he's still a risk?

When the murderer tells you that he is the real victim here for being "punished" for too long, he is still not rehabilitated.

Bill Peschel said...

MayBee, there was no 911 system in the country at the time, let alone New York.

IIRR, you could call the local station house.

Paco Wové said...

I notice that you're arguing generalities here, P. Wind, but Moseley seems like the sort of offender who absolutely should never have been released.

The Drill SGT said...

So someone would have had to walk to the window, try to see what was happening, then go into their kitchen, get the phone book, get their phone, and call, having no idea whether it was just two drunk people having a spat who have now moved on.

As I recall, lots of advertisers printed up glossy cards that you put on the wall with emergency numbers including of course the plumber who paid for the card

and of course the phone book had a page of emergency numbers

Darrell said...

People called--the police just didn't respond in time. What didn't happen is that no one came out with a baseball bat and stopped the crime. In my life I had three occasions to act and I did. All the reasons not to get involved were flooding my mind and I was scared just short of shitless. I have no regrets now, though. And I can't say that I really saved anyone because it didn't play out.

Curious George said...

Should have strapped him in, and lit him up.

eddie willers said...

According to an obituary on NPR:

"In 1968, Moseley was involved in a prison breakout, during which he held hostages in Buffalo and raped a woman before being recaptured."

Perhaps that changes prairie wind's mind.
I sure hope so.

David said...

prairie wind said...
how would you know whether he's still a risk?


How would you know he still isn't a risk? You can't know either for sure. Gven that, and given the brutal nature of the crime, society should keep him far away from its peaceable members. The primary goals of prison are to punish the wrongdoer, protect the larger society from the wrongdoer and provide a chance for rehabilitation and change. These are inherently disharmonious goals. Doubt should be resolved in favor of protection of society. The random cruelty and brutality of this crime makes it all important that doubts and ambiguities should be resolved against the killer.

Larry J said...

One of the arguments against the death penalty is the option of life in prison without parole. That argument is weakened if someone is paroled instead of dying in prison.

eddie willers said...
According to an obituary on NPR:

"In 1968, Moseley was involved in a prison breakout, during which he held hostages in Buffalo and raped a woman before being recaptured."


One of the arguments in favor of the death penalty is that the condemned are permanently prevented from committing more crimes. Had he been on death row (executions had slowed considerably by the mid 1960s), it's unlikely he would've been able to rape that poor woman. It's a lot harder to escape from death row than the general population.

Bill Peschel said...
MayBee, there was no 911 system in the country at the time, let alone New York.


911 wasn't established in the US until 1968 and wasn't in place everywhere until much later.

Char Char Binks said...

BAG nailed it.

Char Char Binks said...

And Phil Ochs got one of his worst songs out of it.

Beach Brutus said...

Re 911 in early '60s -- didn't everyone just dial "0" for the operator and and say, "Operator this is an emergency - get me the police/fire station/ambulance" ?

prairie wind said...

Perhaps that changes prairie wind's mind.

In this case, it might.

YoungHegelian said...

Only a few had glimpsed parts of it, or recognized the cries for help. Many thought they had heard lovers or drunks quarreling.

I can certainly imagine this to be the case.

In my neighborhood, two houses down the hill from me, there lives an autistic boy, probably 11 or 12. Fairly often, he'll go out to his swing in the backyard, swing like a madman, & just scream at the top of his lungs, for 30 to 45 minutes. I often wondered if someone really needed help & was screaming would the neighbors all go "oh, that's just the kid on the swing".

And don't even get me started on the damn red fox on the patio at 5:30AM! It's almost impossible unless you get to listen carefully to distinguish between a fox scream & a person screaming at a distance.

MisterBuddwing said...

Re 911 in early '60s -- didn't everyone just dial "0" for the operator and and say, "Operator this is an emergency - get me the police/fire station/ambulance" ?

Whereupon the operator would look up and dial a seven-digit number to get the police, fire station or hospital and relay the call. That this approach was deemed too inefficient led to the creation of 911.

Steve Uhr said...

Interesting that everyone's favorite show The Girls featured her murder last Sunday in the form a play reenacting what the bystanders did.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Some lives matter!

mikee said...

Between the supposed depraved indifference of the Kitty Genovese witnesses, and the supposed depraved indifference of subway vigilante Bernhard Goetz, New York City has had problems with self defense by citizens across the entire spectrum of victimization possibilities.

I doubt the authorities there will ever accept any level of citizen self defense.

Douglas said...

The Phil Ochs song: "Look outside the window/There's a woman being grabbed/They've dragged her to the bushes/And now she's being stabbed/Maybe we should call the cops and try to stop the pain/But Monopoly is so much fun I'd hate to blow the game/And I'm sure it wouldn't interest anybody/Outside of a small circle of friends."

As the professor notes, that's not what actually happened, but that's what we all thought happened, and that's how we remember it. In any event, I'm glad they never let him out and that he died behind bars.

Nichevo said...

Sadly, Doug, I believe Ochs died a free man.

Jonathan Graehl said...

HS+college Psychology's description of this event turned out to be hugely distorted in favor of some progressive we-shall-overcome-our-dark-past narrative, just like everything else in the humanities that's even *about* something. Almost all the darling chains of pro-progressive [social] psych are turning out to be fabrications now that people dare verify them.

Obviously the common-sense possibility that maybe *nobody* would call 911 about a fiery car crash is something real, and the caricature of Kitty G. helped some remember to act. Not a terrible deal.

Jonathan Graehl said...

Right on, Darrell. 3 is plenty. Yeah, it's a rush. Even a simple brawl over honor is. Consequences could have been dire but we men are wired to go for it. Having a kid you hold back a little if it's not your family at stake, though.

RigelDog said...

I knew---I KNEW---when I first learned of the alleged complete indifference of 30-some people to a woman being raped and stabbed to death right outside their windows that it was a crock of crap. I think only 3 people actually saw something, and only one was able to see that it was an attack. Sadly, if Kitty had stayed out on the sidewalk and called for help, instead of stumbling back into her apartment vestibule where only the one resident (who didn't react) could see that she needed help, this scum would not have had the opportunity to continue his attack and complete the rape and murder. For the handful of other people who did hear or see something brief and ambiguous, there was no way for them to know that this wasn't just another bit of noise or argument in the middle of a big city.

RigelDog said...

Prairie Wind, I agree that the parole board should not place great stock in this one comment made by the murderer. But rest assured, when you have an adult male who has raped and murdered THREE women, and raped who knows how many more, and has subsequently escaped, and has done 2 home invasions while escaped and raped one of those residents---there is zero doubt that he should never be released. He doesn't deserve to be paroled as justice for the lives he took, but with that deeply twisted psyche, he would always have been a menace to society.

Douglas said...

Nichevo - I dunno, I kinda liked the song, it had a cute tune and conveyed a ringing feeling of smug self-righteousness to the listener. In hindsight, I'd say that given the seemingly unstoppable crime wave then sweeping over US cities, it seemed all too believable, pace RigelDog. I don't think the truth came out until many years later and by then the Ochs song was embedded in everyone's memory.

Nichevo said...

This is quite exactly what you might expect from a commie pop artist, no? I get it, he is accepted through long use, but better off dead, just the same.

Char Char Binks said...

Jonathan Graehl said...

"HS+college Psychology's description of this event turned out to be hugely distorted...".

The main things I learned about psychology from the one class I took were the false lessons of the Kitty G. story, and that a trained therapist can help people overcome "phobias" about heights, dogs, and snakes, three fears that the human race could probably not survive without, confirming Dr. Sheldon Cooper's assertion that psychology has proven itself the doofus of the sciences.

"Obviously the common-sense possibility that maybe *nobody* would call 911 about a fiery car crash is something real, and the caricature of Kitty G. helped some remember to act. Not a terrible deal."

The Kitty G. fable may have helped in that way, but for many it's probably just one more distraction kicking around in their heads during emergencies when clearheadedness is of utmost importance, distorting their judgment and slowing their reactions. And now many have to deal with, "If you see something, don't make the black kids angry."