Stabbed to Death 1

I remember watching a TV dramatization of the murder of Kitty Genovese soon after it happened in 1964. I never heard or read that she was divorced or a lesbian, or that her confessed attacker was a black, married father of two. It did seem that a lot of people had been afraid to, “get involved.”

In an All Things Considered interview, What Really Happened The Night Kitty Genovese Was Murdered? Audie Cornish interviews Kevin Cook who has written a book, Kitty Genovese: The Murder, The Bystanders, The Crime That Changed America:

Ten years ago, Genovese’s girlfriend at the time, Mary Ann Zielonko, reflected on the crime in an interview with Sound Portraits Productions:

“I still have a lot of anger toward people because they could have saved her life, I mean, all the steps along the way when he attacked her three times. And then he sexually assaulted her, too, when she was dying. I mean, you look out the window and you see this happening and you don’t help. That’s — how do you live with yourself knowing you didn’t do anything?”

The Genovese story never fails to invoke indignation, but 50 years later, Kevin Cook is raising big questions in a book called Kitty Genovese: The Murder, The Bystanders, The Crime That Changed America. He tells NPR’s Audie Cornish about why the witness count is misleading and why some witnesses might have been reluctant to call the police.

In A CALL FOR HELP, in the New Yorker, Nicholas Lemann asserts that we were made to care about Kitty’s murder by essentially one journalist.:

Sometimes what’s news is inarguable—the outbreak of war, a head-of-state transition, natural calamity—but very often it falls into the category of the resonant incident. It isn’t a turn in the course of history, but it strikes editors as illustrative of something important. Take crime. If crimes don’t involve anyone powerful or well known, they generally aren’t considered news. But a few such crimes do become news, big news, and hold the public’s imagination in a tight, enduring grip.

An excellent example is the murder of Kitty Genovese … . The fact that this crime, one of six hundred and thirty-six murders in New York City that year, became an American obsession—condemned by mayors and Presidents, puzzled over by academics and theologians, studied in freshman psychology courses, re-created in dozens of research experiments, even used four decades later to justify the Iraq war—can be attributed to the influence of one man, A. M. Rosenthal, of the New York Times.



2 responses to “Stabbed to Death 1”

  1. Nancy L. Seibel says :

    I may have seen that same dramatization. Why this crime over the many that happened before or since has such a grip and impact I don’t know. I do know that seeing that tv show as a child terrified me and I still occasionally think of it.


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