Winston Moseley, convicted in Kitty Genovese murder, dies at 81


I am sure many people are familiar with this case, that seemed to have illustrated the bystander effect.

Winston Moseley, whose rape and fatal stabbing of Kitty Genovese in New York more than 50 years ago provoked enduring outrage, reflection and regret over the alleged failure of a large number of witnesses and bystanders to act as she cried out for help, died March 28 in a New York prison. He was 81.

He died at the Clinton Correctional Facility, a maximum security prison in Dannemora, N.Y., according to a spokesman for the New York prison system. He had been serving a life sentence in the March 13, 1964, murder of Genovese, and was described as one of the longest-serving prisoners in the system. The cause of death was awaiting an autopsy.

A celebrated news account published in the New York Times shortly after Genovese was slain focused not so much on her killing as on what it said were the 38 witnesses who did nothing to help her.

The alleged inaction of all of the reputed 38 appeared to stem from the motivation expressed by just one: “I didn’t want to get involved.”

The name of Kitty Genovese, or the Kitty Genovese syndrome, became shorthand for a diagnosis of the disintegration and alienation inherent in modern American society, particular urban society. The murder was dissected in university sociology classes, on television programs and in books, songs and stage shows, including a musical

It seems as though at least one person actually did make a call to police, others thought it was a drunken fight coming from outside of a nearby bar.

One woman, Sophie Ferrar, went out to Kitty Genovese and held and comforted her as she died. She was 70 years old at the time. I never heard of that woman before yesterday.


Other than Kitty Genovese being murdered by Winston Mosely, the story is largely a hoax. Rather than an example of the “bystander effect”, it is an example of “yellow journalism”.


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