Kitty Genovese

This case, although I had heard of it before, made it to my list after watching the Investigative Discovery (ID) show, Crimes to Remember. This was also the case in the blog I posted last about the Alice Crimmins case.  What I did not realize before researching is that it appears that both these cases happened in the same apartment complex in Queens New York.  Kitty's case happened in March of 1964 and the Crimmins case happened in July of 1965.  

This case is an interesting one in that it spawned studies in human behavior, and even got it's own name, Genovese Syndrome.  The problem is that the behavior that was reported as happening at the time of the crime was not in fact accurate. Sadly, although this case did not take place until the 1960's it was nearly a case of Yellow Journalism.  If you have read any of my blog in the era of yellow journalism you know my feelings about it.  The inaccuracies that were published through the newspapers and media were akin to the National Enquirer of old, as even they have gotten a bit better after threats of court action.  

In the early morning of March 13, 1964 Catherine Susan (aka Kitty) Genovese was returning to her apartment after her work as a bar manager at about 3:15 am.  As she left her car she was approached by a man who attacked her, stabbing her twice in the back.  Kitty was crying out for help and a neighbor emerged yelling and the man ran off. The neighbor saw Kitty seemingly go around to the other side of the building and he presumed entered inside.  He had no way of knowing that she had been stabbed.  As she got to the other side of the building she collapsed inside a hallway but apparently did not make any more noise. The man returned to the scene about 10 or 15 minutes later and found Kitty in the hallway where they were out of sight from others. He attacked her again with the knife several times, proceeded to rape her and then stole nearly $50 from her and left.  Near the end of this attack neighbor Karl Ross and seen something going on and had called the police.  Others claim they had called but since they did not see the attack, only heard the yelling, the police did not give the calls priority.  In the mean time, neighbor, Sophia Farrar came outside her apartment not knowing what she would find or if the man would come back and held Kitty in her arms.  The ambulance arrived and were en route to the hospital around 4:15 am.  Kitty Genovese died on the way.

Six days after her murder Winston Moseley was arrested during a home burglary.  Within a few weeks it seems he had not only confessed to murdering Kitty, but also the murders and sexual assaults of two other women, as well as between 30-40 burglaries.  Moseley had not even been on their radar when it came to Kitty, or really anyone else.  Moseley appeared to be a normal, ordinary citizen.  He was 29 years old, married with two children and did not have a criminal history.  He apparently told a story so believable to the police that they believed they had their man in the Genovese case.  There were issues when it came to his other confessions but I will get more into those later.

In the mean time The New York Times had found their way to Kitty's story.  Two weeks after her murder they published an article that stated that 37 people, mostly neighbors stood around and watched as Kitty Genovese was attacked and no one did anything or answered to her cries for help.  Some were supposedly quoted as saying they had just simply did not want to get involved. Others said they thought it was a domestic situation or a simple lovers quarrel and again, just decided to stay out of it.  This became the story of Kitty Genovese. Over the years it became known as the Bystander Effect or Genovese Syndrome as studies were done on human behavior to see why no one went to her aid.  The problem is, that this was not true but it took nearly decades for that to be known.  It is much easier for people to hear and learn things than to un-hear or un-learn them, and this case had gone down as a legend.  Emergency calls were not logged the way that they are now so apparently there is no sure fire way to know exactly when the first call came in but based on the information given in at least one call prior to Karl Ross calling after the second attack it did not seem to be a priority case.  My research also indicated that at the time there was not really any sort of what we would call sensitivity training given to emergency call respondents.  The Genovese case did in fact apparently change the way calls were handled and responded. 
Reality is that there was apparently not one witness who saw the whole encounter, and most saw absolutely nothing.  One man, Joseph Fink saw the first attack, but did not know that she was harmed and assumed she had gone inside her apartment.  Others simply heard yelling at 3 am but most claimed to not hear anything specific through their closed windows or assumed it was just simply two people arguing.  Karl Ross did not see the first attack but he saw the second one.  It was apparently his call that finally got the authorities to come to the scene.  

So Moseley's trial began on June 8, 1964 for the murder of Kitty Genovese. He initially plead not guilty and then changed that to not guilty by reason of insanity.  Within the week, after seven hours of deliberations, he was convicted and on June 15, 1964 he was sentenced to death.  When it came to specifics of this trial I was unable to find much information.  What I do know is that in June of 1967 the New York Court of Appeals decided that his sentence should have been life in prison instead of the death penalty based on the fact he "should have been able to argue medically insane."  To be truthful I am unsure what that even means or what and how they determined this.  

Then on March 18, 1968 after Moseley had injured himself and had to receive surgery at a local hospital he escaped while be transported back to the prison.  He injured the transport officer and stole his weapon.  He found his way to a vacant house that he apparently somehow stayed in for three days when the couple that owned the home arrived on March 21st.  He bound and gagged the husband while he raped the wife.  He held them captive for a few hours before taking their car and fleeing.  On March 22nd, he broke into another home in which he held the mother and daughter hostage for a few hours.  He released them, apparently unharmed and not long later surrendered to police.  He was later sentenced to two more 15 year sentences for this crime spree.  He received his first parole hearing in 1984 in which he was denied.  As far as I can tell he remains in prison today and is one of New York's longest serving inmates.

So what about the other crimes he confessed to?  Well, in hindsight the burglaries, as long as there were no deaths were minor compared to the murders and it is unusual for counties to pay to go after someone for the minor crimes.  But, he was never tried for the other two women he confessed to killing.  The first was Barbara Kralik who was fifteen years old when she was stabbed in her home on July 20, 1963.  The second was Annie May Johnson, a 24 year old woman who Moseley claimed that on February 29, 1964 he first shot and then burned.  Prosecutors had a problem with his confession to the Kralik crime because they already had a man in custody awaiting trial.  Alvin Mitchell too had confessed to this murder.  Most research says however that Moseley's confession seemed to fit the crime better than Mitchell's where as a lot of Mitchell's confession contained "I do not remember" statements.  However, it is likely that there was a big "to do" when Mitchell was arrested and confessed and prosecutors were not going to back down.  In fact Mitchell still went on trial, Moseley testified for the defense and there was a hung jury.  My research indicates that of the 12 jurors, only one held out for acquittal.  It was said that he was going to be re-tried but I found no evidence of this.  As far as the case in the murder of Annie Johnson I found no other information on this.  

For me, the most interesting part of this case was not the fact that the newspapers had basically started a rumor that went down as legend as it was the confessions of not just Moseley but also of Alvin Mitchell. This was 1964, Queens New York.  We're talking in the middle of the civil rights movement and although some would argue there is still race discrimination and be correct, an era of major discrimination as well as police tactic that are no longer acceptable.  I have to question how or why Moseley, who had been arrested for a home invasion, and had no criminal background would confess two weeks after being arrested to more burglaries and three murders.  It is probably obvious that he was not pressured to confess to the Kralik crime considering Mitchell was awaiting trial but what about Kitty Genovese and Annie May Johnson?  This was not a time of DNA or even decent forensics, and was a time in which confessions were believed and "false confessions" were unheard of.  One of the big problems I have here is that while one could argue that the Genovese and Kralik murders were similar, the Johnson murder is not.  If we were to believe that Moseley murdered Kralik, as most seemingly tend to do, then it does pretty much match his MO.  He entered a home (he did so later during his escape from custody, as well was initially apprehended during a robbery) and stabbed a young girl who died.  The fact that he stabbed her matches how Kitty Genovese was murdered.  He claims to have sexually assaulted all three women also. But, Annie May Johnson's murder does not fit. I will admit that when it comes to searching information on Winston Moseley, or even Annie May Johnson most things lead back to the Kitty Genovese killing and trail off in other areas.  One thing I found says that he supposedly broke into Annie May's home and shot her six times and then had sex with her corpse. Again, it just does not seem to fit for me.  Now, this is not to say that I think Moseley was necessarily a good person or society was not in danger, his spree during his escape shows that.  He also apparently continues to admit he killed at least Kitty Genovese and seemingly tends to want to play the victim as he has blamed his parents and society at multiple times for his actions as well as literally called himself a victim.  I am just uncertain that we can trust everything that he said, and if we cannot trust everything that he said, can we trust anything?  

The other thing that disturbs me about the case against Moseley is just how fast he was at trial.  I mean Kitty Genovese was murdered on March 13th and Moseley was not arrested until the 19th.  Even still most things say he did not confess until April 2nd and his trial started on June 8th.... two months and 6 days after his confession.  I realize that in times past that trials were quicker and justice served at a faster speed, but for this crime to have occurred in 1964 in my opinion, it was faster than normal.  I gander to guess there is not a defense attorney worth his salt that could have prepared an adequate defense in that time period.  Not to mention we are talking Queens New York who at that time did have a lot of crime going on.  The lawyers and courts would seemingly be busy... how did his get through so fast?  In fact, Moseley was on trial and waiting to be sentenced before Alvin Mitchell was put on trial for the murder of Barbara Kralik.  This is one of the things that make my "icky meter" as I call it go into overdrive.  If you are a reader of my blog then you know I am about things being fair, if someone is guilty, then prove it but prove it in a fair and legal way.  I do not believe in creating laws, pulling strings or hiding things to get the "man" everyone things is guilty. And there is just something in me that tells me this was not quite fair.



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