A Brother’s Quest to Find the Real Truth of What Happened to Kitty Genovese

Given human nature, in order to tolerate the intolerable, do we shape our version of life to fit reality, or do we change reality and call it the truth? That is the ultimate question we all face over and over throughout our lives.  

There are many reasons why we play this subconscious game.  We change the truth for ourselves to make it more palatable, to ease the pain.  We create a fictionalized version that the public will accept.  Whether it is a specific individual or society itself, when a drama is created, irrespective of the truth, it speaks to the fact that the person or the public has not developed sufficient resiliency. When we are not resilient, a drama is perpetuated, misinformation becomes the status quo and unearthing the truth for truth and justice’s sake is oh so hard!

Bill Genovese, brother of Kitty Genovese, a disabled Vietnam Veteran took on the quest to right the wrongs since the night of March 13, 1964.  He interviewed all witnesses and even corresponded with the evil perp in preparation for his innovative film, The Witness.  A “devil’s advocate style” 2016  NPR article conveys the ambivalence of it all,  appears to question Bill’s motives, reveals possible reasons for the lack of witnesses coming forward 50 years ago and concludes that the myths will never fade. 

Never mind the fake news of today, it seemed that in 1964, the New York Times rushed to judgment on its facts, the number of neighbors who ignored Kitty’s cries for help and the infamous L – Lesbian word, just made everything all the more shocking, as most women were still closeted. The Stonewall Inn demonstrations did not take place until five years later. 

In April 2016, the New York Times interviewed Kitty’s partner, Mary Ann Zielonko Her account of that night is filled with trepidation, regret, and pain. There was the joy of meeting someone you click with, residing in a safe artsy neighborhood with Holocaust survivors as neighbors. They worked together in a bar and played together. But, to this day, Mary Ann feels she might have saved Kitty, for while Mary Ann returned from bowling and slept, Kitty was being murdered as the evil man returned a second time to stab her yet again!

Another interesting fact was that with the heinousness of Kitty’s murder, came innovation, specifically the introduction of the 911 Emergency System.  According to Biography.com, Kitty’s murder was the impetus for a much-improved way of reporting to the police of emergencies. In 1968 the 911 system was adopted throughout the country. Prior to that time, concerned citizens had to dial “O” for operator or the local police station number which was then relayed to a communications bureau and then passed on to the precinct! What an arduous process, in which many lives hung in the balance. President Lyndon Johnson and AT &T was instrumental in creating this single point of contact for emergencies.  There is no doubt that the implementation of this system has saved countless lives!

Bill Genovese is not a crackpot.  He is a man with a mission who says he’ll know when it’s over. It matters not that Winston Moseley described as a psychopathic serial killer and necrophiliac, was the man who stalked, raped and killed Kitty died in prison in Dannemora, in March 2016 at age 81. He even earned a college degree on taxpayers’ dime! You can read more at my previous blog: https://donnagore.com/2011/06/05/it’s-all-about-social-responsibility-the-case-of-kitty-genovese/

The groundbreaking film,The Witness,” was initially released as a world premiere at the New York Film Festival in October 2015. The trailer is engrossing, chilling!  It is available on several social media platforms.

Watch it as a shameful part of history. Watch it for justice’s sake. Watch it as a legacy to Kitty who was struck down so young and needlessly.. Watch it for Bill Genovese, a Vietnam Vet who lost his legs in the Vietnam War and lost even more in the life of his sister, Kitty. Perhaps his life has come full circle now. I truly hope so!

References-

http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/blog/history-of-911-americas-emergency-service-before-and-after-kitty-genovese/

https://www.biography.com/people/kitty-genovese-120415

http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/blog/history-of-911-americas-emergency-service-before-and-after-kitty-genovese/

http://www.thewitness-film.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-witness-review-searching-for-the-truth-about-kitty-genovese-1464883925

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/05/nyregion/winston-moseley-81-killer-of-kitty-genovese-dies-in-prison.html


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It’s All about Social Responsibility-The Case of Kitty Genovese


 

Catherine “Kitty” Genovese 

(Doesn’t She Resemble Jackie Kennedy in this Photo?)

 

What motivates us to assist versus “looking the other way?” Ladyjustice believes it depends upon a person’s moral character and the circumstances of the specific situation. All of us are not “doers” or “social workers in disguise” by nature.  If everyone had the same moral fiber and true sense of right and wrong, we would have far less criminals… and perhaps this blogger would not be doing the vastly rewarding task of writing here and now! 

A young working class woman arriving home late (3:15 a.m.) from her job as a bar manager who just happened to be a lesbian (when it wasn’t “popular” or talked about)…. ‘A stalker and murderer Winston Moseley, who left and came back to finish the job by fatally stabbing and raping Kitty… 

Those of us who are baby boomers recall, at least vaguely, the horrific killing of Catherine (Kitty) Genovese in Kew Gardens-Queens, New York in 1964. This murder was portrayed as if “the world stood by and watched and spectators” and no one meaningfully came to her aid in a manner that could have saved her life. 

Why is this, you ask?  Well, many thoughts come to mind… Having been in NYC numerous times, it has had a past reputation of crime running rampant.  The big bad city, larger than life…  Queens was an area in which many were living on the edge in the 60’s, as in all urban cities, barely making it financially, but these residents are part of what makes the New York mystique tick. There is a fascination with the city’s “personality.” (Bloggers, refer to Diane Fanning’s recent description)

 

Another Example….

An Analogy of More Urban Deterioration and the Birth of “Lipstick on a Pig” 

Urban deterioration reminds Ladyjustice of the setting of the 1951 adaptation of the 1947 play “Streetcar Named Desire” starring Marlon Brando and Kim Hunter as Stanley and Stella Kowalski.  He dominates Stella in every way and is physically and emotionally abusive. Stella tolerates his primal behavior which is part of what attracted her in the first place; the arrival of Blanche (Vivian Leigh) upsets her sister’s and brother-in-law’s system of mutual dependence. Stella’s concern for her sister’s well-being emboldens Blanche to “hold court in the Kowalski apartment”, infuriating Stanley and leading to conflict in his relationship with his wife. Their final confrontation is rape by Stanley which results in Blanche’s nervous breakdown. Devastated with her sister’s fate, Stella weeps and rejects Stanley’s intention to comfort her and pushes him away. Stella runs out to see Blanche off, but is too late, as the car Blanche left in has already gone. As he cries her name once more (“Stella! Hey, Stella!”)  Stella, Stella indeed! This scene is a precursor for what we now identify as “domestic violence “that surely took place in the environs of 1964 Queens, New York. Domestic Violence is a “polite somewhat clinical name” for battering, akin to “putting lipstick on a pig.”  Whether it was the 1940, 50’s or 60’s domestic violence was “kept indoors for the good of all.”  Kitty was one of many to come… 

However, what makes the Kitty Genovese case so intriguing to Ladyjustice, is the fact that she is a member of the same community, and the fact that  Kitty’s sexual orientation was “kept under wraps behind closeted doors” for years!  Stonewall, the historical benchmark of “enough is enough” regarding gay oppression and discrimination, did not occur until June, 1969, some 5 years later.   

On March 13, 2004, the unbelievable events are recounted during a brief NPR radio interview by Kitty’s former partner, Mary Ann Zielonko. ( Link: Weekend Edition Saturday.)  Ms. Zienloko, distraught to this day, talks about Kitty’s personality, their first meeting, the circumstances of her death and Mary Ann’s sadness and utter disillusionment with “society” in their Kew Gardens, Queens neighborhood.

Could it be that Kitty’s last words, “I’m dying, I’m dying… Someone help me.” was just part of the “usual banter of tenement living in just another urban neighborhood”, as Kitty desperately struggled from one end of the building to another during the 30 minute attack?  Some have raised questions about her continued ability to scream when her attacker punctured her lungs.   ( Before we tackle the “Bystander Effect,” let’s discuss some of the other facts…)

 

More Reported Facts.. The Good, Bad and the Ugly:

Bad:  There is considerable dispute as to how many actually ignored Kitty’s pleas.  The March 27, 2004 New York Times article quoted 38 neighbors or persons heard screams and did nothing.  Prosecutors and police determined that it was more like one dozen , with one person actually reporting the event .  One neighbor supposed yelled, “Let that girl alone;” 

Bad: The original police report quoted the sole call as “A woman was beat up, but got up and was staggering around.” Spectators and police obviously interpreted it as “a family argument or drunken brawl;” 

Ugly:  Winston Moseley, the confessed killer, also confessed to two other murders and many other attacks; 

Ugly: Winston Moseley underwent a psychiatrist evaluation which suggested that he was a necrophile (enjoys sex with a dead body).  In fact, Kitty lay dying  in her hallway after his subsequent attacks and, as a final act, he raped her; 

Ugly: Winston Moseley’s admitted motive was, “To kill a woman….  As they are easier and don’t fight back;” 

Good: Kitty’s murder led to reforms in the New York Police Department telephone reporting system in addition to introducing the concept of “neighborhood watches.” 

Bad:  A June 1967 Supreme Court ruling stated that Moseley should have had the opportunity to offer a “medical insanity” plea despite the initial ruling of legal sanity at trial.  As a result of the initial death sentence, (which produced applause and cheers in the courtroom) was reduced to the indeterminate sentence of life in prison.

(Ladyjustice comment- More tax dollars wasted and justice misplaced!) 

Ugly: Moseley’s track record – After Kitty’s murder, Moseley was being transported to a hospital for surgery when he reportedly overpowered a guard, located a bat , held five others hostage and raped a women in front of her husband…. In addition he was involved with the 1971 Attica Prison riots;  A New York Daily News article reported that Moseley “blamed his parental upbringing” for his rapes. 

Just Incredible and Ironic:  A Court TV Library story indicated that Winston Moseley actually obtained a B. A. in Sociology in prison in the late 1970’s! 

Good:   After her death, Kitty Genovese unknowingly changed the course of social psychology and created the “Bystander effect” postulated by social psychologists Bibb Latane and John Darley that “contrary to common expectations, large numbers of bystanders decrease the likelihood that someone will step forward and assist.” Ladyjustice interprets this as “passing the buck” because, according to the theory, they feel uncomfortable and uncertain how to help. “Others have it covered. No reason to get involved.” 

Since the initial research on the Bystander Effect, the “American Psychologist “ publication surmised in 2007 that this occurrence “is more of a parable than fact,” due to the inaccuracies of the initial reports. However, the story appears to be too enticing to otherwise bored students and thus continues to be included in social psychology texts and lectures. 

Jessica Max Stein, writer for a GBLTQ publication called the Bilerico Project (www.bilericoproject.com) compared a recent April 2011 “modern day attack” in Baltimore, Maryland of Crissy Lee Polis at a McDonald’s to the Kitty Genovese case. 

Crissy Lee was attacked “because she was a member of the community”  and videoed via cell phone as others watched.  Stein asked the same questions as Ladyjustice regarding the possible motives and the role of  homophobia in each instance,   Stein further reports on psychologists blaming “technology” as the “mind numbing effect”- the advent of TV in the 1960’s and all forms of social media currently.

 

Final “Bad Fact” 

Winston Moseley has been denied parole 13 times in the past… His next parole hearing is scheduled for November, 2011.  Ladyjustice asks that all New Yorkers and “the rest of the world” protest yet again!

 

Acts to “the Good”

“Soldiering On”

Published: May 06, 2001

To the Editor  of the New York Times

Re ”Sidewalk Soldiers” (April 15): We are New York’s oldest incorporated block association. Formed in 1966 after the murder of Kitty Genovese in Queens (as neighbors watched from their windows), our group began by creating a three-block ”security corridor” from Riverside Drive to Amsterdam Avenue. From stoops, window sills and fire escapes, neighbors watched out. We were also the first block association to plant our own trees.

New issues crop up all the time. In the 1980’s a building on our block was proposed as the site of a pilot project for homeless mothers with children and senior citizens. We created a community advisory board, which helped guide the project to become fully integrated into the community.

Our numbers are smaller but we are no less active and committed to our block and our community than we were when we began.

GAIL DUBOV

President, West 83rd Street Association

And Finally from Ladyjustice…

 

Kitty Genovese is buried in a family grave at Lakeview Cemetery in New Canaan, Connecticut.  Ladyjustice will have to visit before heading to San Diego…

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{35 sources updated through May 2011 via Wikipedia were used, in addition to the Bilerico project, and NPR in the creation of this blog;}

{Thirty-Eight Witnesses: The Kitty Genovese Case, With A New Introduction [Paperback]A. M. Rosenthal (Author) is available via Amazon.

{ Kitty Genovese photo, Compliments of http://www.flickr.com}