The Kitty Genovese Story — All Wrong?

The Kitty Genovese story was printed in the New York Times on March 27, 1964 under the headline, 37 who saw murder didn’t call police.  Supposedly 37 people heard 28-year-old Kitty Genovese’s screams on the night of March 13, 1964 from a parking lot near her apartment house as 29-year-old Winston Moseley repeatedly stabbed her to death in the Kew Gardens neighborhood of Queens. According to the Times, none of them called police or did anything to help the victim.  The story was sensationalized by a key quote from one resident who said, “I didn’t want to get involved.”

The Kitty Genovese killing was just one of 636 murders in New York City in 1964 but was burned into America’s national consciousness standing for the psychological phenomenon known at the “bystander effect” or “Genovese syndrome.”

Over the years a number of Genovese revisionists have demonstrated that the story is completely wrong.  There were two separate attacks, the first in the parking lot when a neighbor heard screams and yelled out his window, “Leave that girl alone,” causing Winston Moseley to run away.  He came back after Genovese, now severely wounded, limped into the vestibule and that is where he continued stabbing her and left her for dead.  Several people called police and one neighbor was holding Genovese and talking to her when police arrived.  She later died.

A complete account of how the Genovese matter was hyped and sensationalized by the New York Times’ false reporting now appears in the March 10, 2014 issue of the The New Yorker. It’s a compelling story and a good read.