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Winston Moseley: Social Psychology's Famous Killer

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Winston Moseley died on March 28, 2016 at the age of 81. His obituary appeared in the New York Times on April 4th. Moseley was the catalyst for an event that everyone who has taken Intro Psych since the mid-1960s remembers, but I’m not surprised if you don’t recognize his name. The event is known for the victim, not the killer. In 1964, Winston Moseley murdered Kitty Genovese.

“His life behind bars had been relatively eventful. Mr. Moseley was condemned to die in the electric chair, but in 1967, two years after New York State abolished most capital punishments, he won an appeal that reduced his sentence to an indeterminate life term. While at Attica Correctional Facility, in 1968, he escaped while on a hospital visit to Buffalo, raped a woman and held hostages at gunpoint before being recaptured. He joined in the 1971 Attica uprising; earned a college degree [bachelor’s in sociology] in 1977; and was rejected 18 times at parole hearings, the last time in 2015.”

The obituary explains that this would have been just another murder among the 635 others that year in New York City had it not been for a front-page New York Times article published two weeks later. The story’s angle was apathy – that 38 people witnessed the whole thing yet did nothing. But that’s not quite what happened.

“None saw the attack in its entirety. Only a few had glimpsed parts of it, or recognized the cries for help. Many thought they had heard lovers or drunks quarreling. There were two attacks, not three. And afterward, two people did call the police. A 70-year-old woman ventured out and cradled the dying victim in her arms until they arrived. Ms. Genovese died on the way to a hospital.”

For more, see last month's blog post on Kitty Genovese.

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About the Author
At Highline College near Seattle, Sue Frantz is working on her third decade in the psychology college classroom. Throughout her career, she has been an early adopter of new technologies in which she saw pedagogical potential. In 2009, she founded her blog, Technology for Academics. The blog features both new tech tools and tips for using not-so-new tools effectively. She currently serves as Vice President for Resources for APA Division 2: Society for the Teaching of Psychology. In 2013, she was the inaugural recipient of the APA award for Excellence in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning at a Two-Year College or Campus. In 2016, she received the Charles L. Brewer Distinguished Teaching of Psychology Award. As the newest contributor to the Instructor Resource Manual for the David Myers and Nathan DeWall Introduction to Psychology textbooks, she is excited to bring teaching resources to you in this venue.