Brandeis University, Philosophy Department
Spring 2011
Brandeis University Web Stite

Philosophy 22B

Philosophy of Law

Professor Andreas Teuber
Prof. Teuber


The Murder of Kitty Genovese


From its inception our criminal justice system has required that two elements be present before imposing liability for the commission of a crime. It must be shown that the defendant had a culpable state of mind and that he committed a bad act, an actus reus. From this we might conclude that failures to act, all inaction cannot, indeed should not, be punishable under the law. Indeed there was a famous incident nearly forty years ago that seems to bear this suspicion out:

The Kitty Genovese Murder: A woman named Catherine "Kitty" Genovese, an American, was stalked and repeatedly stabbed by an assailant in a middle-class New York City neighborhood. Although thirty-eight neighbors either heard or saw Genovese being attacked, no one came to her aid or even called the police until thirty-five minutes after the attack, by which time Genovese was dead. . . . No one was investigated or prosecuted for failing to help Genovese because it was not a crime in New York."


Kitty Genovese


Kitty Genovese Stories and Photos:


Kitty Genovese



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