37 Who Saw the Murder and Didnt Call the Police

Topics: Witness, Human behavior, Psychology Pages: 5 (794 words) Published: March 7, 2008
The murder of Cartherine Genovese was an event that headlined news stories across

the country, however it wasn't the murder itself that shocked people. According to

Gansberg's essay "37 Who Saw Murder Didn't Call the Police" the shock was that

thirty seven people witnessed the murder but no one called the police. Since then this

case has been used as an example of human fear in criminal and psychology classes.

However there have been more accounts which tell a different story of the incident.De

May's essay says although thirty seven people heard something they didn't know what

was actually going on which is why nobody called the police.

"37 Who Saw Murder Didn't Call the Police" is the story of the brutal killing of

Catherine Genovese ,a young women living alone in the quiet upper middle class

neighborhood of Kew Gardens, in Queens, New York.What we learn from the story is

that her cries for help in the middle of the night led thirty seven people to watch her being

fatally stabbed and the reaction of them was to treat her ongoing murder as a bad

television show that could safely be turned off.The crime was doubly terrifying because

witnesses to the crime might very well have saved her life if only they had the courage

and the compassion to get involved.Assistant Chief Inspector Frederick M.Lussen,from

the story, said"As we have reconstructed the crime the assailant had three chances to kill

this woman during a 35-minute period.He returned twice to complete the job.If we had

been called after the first attacked,the woman might not be dead now".The witness who

called police,explained that he had called the police after much deliberation,he called first

friend for advice and then went to the apartment of the elderly woman to get her to make

the call."I didn't want to get involved"was his exuse.Another witness said"There is no

legal responsibility for any citizen to report a crime".One couple explained that they saw

everything very well but asked why they hadn't called the police they replied"We don't

know".And one witness said"I was tired, I went back to bed".This is why Gansberg's

essay became a national news story of human fear.

On the contrary De May's essay is telling us that Gansberg's story is mostly wrong.

According to De May's story not all of 37 witnesses were eye witnesses. He explains

that whatever the precise number, merely being "witnesses" does not necessarily mean

that the 37 saw, heard or understood what was happening. For example, if a man were

only half awakened by Kitty's screams and then immediately drifted back off to sleep not

to remember that fact until the next morning, he would still be a "witness" although he

heard little and saw or understood nothing. So the real questions are, what did the 37

witnesses see or hear that night, and what did they think it meant?

Also there is no suggestion that they saw knife, blood or any act of violence.One lady

said" It looked like she was reaching for her purse. She bent down and picked

somethingup. I don't know what it was".De May's story says that only two eye witnesses

are known that had the closest view of all and they said" "The way she walked made us

think she was either drunk, or had been beaten up. She walked slowly, holding on to the

building wall for support as she did". Misunderstanding could have come form a fact that

the first attack occurred only a few feet from a bar called Old Bailey. Loud early

morning behavior outside of any bar is not unusual, and Old Bailey was no exception - a

fact that residents had previously complained about. Not having seen the first stabbing,

many witnesses probably dismissed the commotion as alcohol related. So, the fact that

Kitty got up and walked away at all - whether staggering or dreamlike - must have been

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