Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Kitty Genovese Murder

A Verdict

Photo: Guilty! The New York Daily News, June 12, 1964 (photo by author)
Photo: Guilty! The New York
Daily News, June 12, 1964
(photo by author)

On June 11, the defense and prosecution summed up the case in front of the 11-man, one-woman jury. Sidney G. Sparrow tried hard to get the jury to accept the "not guilty by reason of insanity" plea. He tried to make the court understand that Winston Moseley lived a "Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde" existence. By day he held a regular job, was married, had a family and seemed like any other ordinary citizen. But at night, he turned into "a monster, addicted to murder and sexual frenzies." He said Mosley was a schizophrenic personality and legally insane. "Was it sane for him to go on about what he was doing when 10, 20, 30 or 50 people were opening windows, opening and closing doors, yelling at him?" he asked the jury.

But the prosecuting attorney, Assistant District Attorney Frank Cacciatore was ready. "Moseley was a panther, a beast, roaming the streets of Queens in the dead of night," he shouted in the courtroom.

Judge J. Irwin Shapiro instructed the jury on the insanity plea, "Legal sanity means a person must be held criminally responsible for his conduct, unless he has such a defect of reason that he cannot distinguish between right and wrong," he said. And through all of the arguing and summations, which lasted into the late afternoon of June 11, 1964, Winston Moseley sat calmly in his seat at the defense table.

Jury deliberations began at 4 p.m.at the Queens Supreme Court building; just a few minutes walk from Austin Street where Catherine was murdered three months before. By 10:30 p.m., less than seven hours later, a verdict was reached. Mosley was found guilty of murder in the first degree. He stood motionless as he heard the jury announce its decision. He made no outward signs of emotion.

When asked by the court clerk his date of birth, he said, "I was born on March 2, 1935, Manhattan. Graduate of high school. I occasionally go to church." Then court officers took him away. There were only about 10 spectators present when the verdict was announced. Most people thought there would not be a verdict until Monday and had left for the weekend. Conspicuous in their absence was the Genovese family. No one from the family had ever visited the courtroom. "None of us went to the trial, not even Mom or Dad," said Bill Genovese recently. "We tried to protect the family from the publicity, especially Mom. We hid the newspaper articles from her."

On Monday, June 15, 1964, Moseley was brought back to Queens County Supreme Court for sentencing. This time the courtroom was packed with spectators and reporters. The prosecution was allowed to introduce "any matters which they deem relevant" to show aggravating circumstances of the defendant's behavior. Four women testified that Moseley had also attacked them. He had beaten one of them, raped another and robbed all four. The testimony was graphic and had an emotional impact on the jury.

"Life imprisonment isn't that at all; this monster can live to stalk the streets again!" pleaded Assistant District Attorney Frank Cacciatore. The jury retired to consider the sentence. A short time later, they announced their decision.

"We, the jury, recommend the death penalty," the jury foreman said to the court. The room erupted into loud spontaneous applause and cheers. Judge Shapiro pounded his gavel to restore order. "I've never seen anything like this-never, not at such a time," said a veteran court officer to reporters. Once the clamor had settled down and people took their seats again, the judge added his own thoughts.

"I don't believe in capital punishment, but when I see this monster," he said, "I wouldn't hesitate to pull the switch myself!"

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