- Career Girls Murders
The "Career Girls Murders" was the name given by the media to the killings of Emily Hoffert and Janice Wylie in their apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, New York City, USA on August 28, 1963. George Whitmore, Jr, was accused of this and other crimes but later cleared.
The actions of the police department led Whitmore to be improperly accused of this and other crimes, including the murder of Minnie Edmonds and the attempted rape and assault of Elba Borrero. Whitmore was wrongfully incarcerated for 1,216 days—from his arrest on April 24, 1964 until his release on bond on July 13, 1966, and from the revocation of his bond on February 28, 1972 until his exoneration on April 10, 1973.
His treatment by the authorities was cited as an example that led the US Supreme Court to issue the guidelines known as the Miranda rights. The Whitmore case was also considered as being instrumental in the restriction and eventual elimination of the death penalty in New York State. As the New York Times stated on the occasion of the actual killer's denial of parole in 1998, "[t]he murders at first led to the arrest of an innocent man, George Whitmore Jr., and the case helped contribute to the abolition of the state's death penalty and to the restriction of police interrogations throughout the country. New York State legislators said an innocent man could have been executed after giving a forced confession."
The Crimes and the First Arrest
On August 28, 1963, Patricia Tolles, 23, who worked at the book division at Time-Life, returned to her apartment on the third floor of 57 E. 88th Street in New York City. There she found the flat ransacked and covered in blood. In a bedroom were the bodies of her roommates, Newsweek researcher Janice Wylie, 21, and schoolteacher Emily Hoffert, 23. Both had been stabbed over 60 times with knives from their own kitchen and there was evidence that Wylie, who was wearing only a towel, had been sexually assaulted.
The case was dubbed the "Career Girls Murders" by the media because Wylie, niece of novelist Philip Wylie, and Hoffert were two of many thousands of young women who had come from all over America to New York to seek jobs and careers. Others like them now felt unsafe and the police were under pressure to solve the case. Hundreds of detectives were assigned to the investigation and thousands of people were interviewed, but as the months went by no leads were found.
On April 14, 1964, Mrs. Minnie Edmonds, 46, was found murdered in an alleyway off Chester Street in Brooklyn. She had been stabbed and slashed repeatedly and there was also evidence of sexual assault.
On April 23, at about 1:45 a.m., nurse Elba Borrero, 20, was walking home in the same area as the Edmonds murder. She was attacked by a man but fought back. Police Officer Frank Isola chased the man and fired several shots at him but he got away. Later that day, Isola met George Whitmore, Jr and took him to the 73rd Precinct for questioning.
On April 25, it was announced by the Brooklyn police that Whitmore had confessed to the Wylie-Hoffert and Edmonds murders and the attempted assault of Elba Borrero who had identified him as her attacker. At a news conference it was announced that Whitmore had given details of the Wylie-Hoffert murders that only the killer could have known. It was stated he had drawn a detailed diagram of the apartment and had a photo of Janice Wylie that had been stolen from the flat.
Whitmore, who had an IQ of below 100, was an unemployed 19-year-old African-American. His parents were separated and he alternated between living with either of them or other family members. He was short-sighted and could not afford new glasses. He had no criminal record and was described as a "drifter".
"We got the right guy, no question about it," Chief [of police] McKearney said at the time Whitmore was booked. The certainty of the police was soon to unravel. The Manhattan legal team, in charge of the Wylie-Hoffert murders, was having serious doubts as to Whitmore's guilt. At his arraignment on April 28, he had repudiated his confessions, claiming that he had been beaten during the interrogations; counsel had not been present; and he had been denied the opportunity to take a lie-detector test — an unusual request for a guilty man to make.
Investigators quietly collected evidence showing the confession to be false. Whitmore had claimed to have found the photo of Janice Wylie in a junkyard in Wildwood, New Jersey where his father worked. Inquiries led investigators to identify the girl in the photo as Arlene Franco, very much alive and living in southern New Jersey. They also found witnesses who claimed that Whitmore was in Wildwood at the time of the murders: he had been watching a TV broadcast of Martin Luther King's speech during the March on Washington and was thus miles away from the crime scene.
The Brooklyn detectives had claimed that Whitmore had given details of the Wylie-Hoffert killings which only the murderer could have known. In fact Detective Edward Bulger, who had worked on the case, had been at the Brooklyn Precinct at the time of Whitmore's arrest and was part of the interrogation. It was he who had wrongly identified the photo as that of Janice Wylie. Manhattan prosecutors noticed that every detail in the Whitmore confession was known to the police beforehand.
However, even after Whitmore's confession was discredited, Manhattan District Attorney Frank Hogan did not immediately dismiss the indictment against him, even though he and his colleagues secretly knew that police had a new suspect. With Brooklyn authorities, the public, and even the jury still assuming that Whitmore was a confessed murderer, he was tried in November 1964 for attempting to rape Elba Borrero. She identified Whitmore as her attacker, although she acknowledged that he was the only suspect police had shown her. She also admitted that she had discussed with a lawyer a $10,000 reward offered for the conviction of Janice Wylie's killer.
Brandishing Whitmore's ragged raincoat and a leather button Borrero had torn from her attacker's coat, the prosecutor asked the jury, "Haven't we nailed George Whitmore right on the button in the truest sense of the word?" It has since become known, however, that the prosecutor's office had in its possession, and deliberately withheld, an FBI report that found that the button was not a match for Whitmore's coat. Meanwhile, Whitmore maintained his claims that he had been beaten by the police and had only confessed when the pressure became too much. "I was in the precinct — the only Negro in that precinct house. Everytime I denied I'd done any of those things, they'd punch me in the back or chest. They beat on me whenever I said no." 
Whitmore was originally represented by Jerome Leftow, a court-appointed attorney from Kings County, who was discharged following Whitmore's first conviction in the Borrero trials. He was replaced by Arthur H. Miller and Edwin Kaplan, both of Brooklyn, and Stanley Reiben of Manhattan, who became Whitmore's primary defense team for the remainder of the Whitmore criminal matters. The Defense lawyers worked for Whitmore largely on a pro-bono basis. "Miller did most of the investigation work-digging up evidence — and Reiben blueprinted the courtroom strategy. With help from newspaper reporters, the lawyers soon had enough evidence to convince them that the Wylie-Hoffert case against Whitmore was worthless." Of the various attorneys who represented Whitmore, Miller remained with Whitmore the longest, being with Whitmore through his ultimate release and later during his fruitless attempts at obtaining compensation for his wrongful incarceration.
Aside from his confession, no other evidence could be found linking him to the Manhattan murders, and Hogan delayed the prosecution of Whitmore for those offences. "Presumably a murder rap would have been given precedence; but since the Wylie-Hoffert 'confession' had collapsed and the [Borrero-]Edmonds prosecution hinged on the same document, [the District Attorney's Office] had chosen to play it safe."
A New Suspect
On October 9, 1964, Nathan Delaney, 35, was arrested for the murder of rival drug dealer, Roberto Cruz del Valle. Facing the death penalty, Delaney offered to make a deal : in return for leniency he would give police the name of the killer of "career girls" Emily Hoffert and Janice Wylie — and he did not mean Whitmore.
Delaney claimed that on the day of the killings he had met an old acquaintance, Richard "Ricky" Robles, who had told him that he had committed the murders. 22-year-old burglar Robles had a long record of drug use and had been released from prison just two months before the murders. Delaney told detectives that Robles had turned up at his flat on the day of the killings, his hands and clothes covered in blood and demanding drugs.
A Grand Jury cleared Delaney on the grounds of justifiable homicide. He and his wife were wired with bugs which were also installed in both their apartment and Robles'. Over time, Robles gave enough details of the murders to convince investigators that he was the real killer and he was arrested and charged on January 26, 1965.
In March 1965, New York Supreme Court Judge David Malbin quashed Whitmore's conviction for the attack on Borrero on the grounds that members of the jury were racially biased and had also discussed the Wylie-Hoffert murders, which they were instructed not to do.
Prosecutors, however, insisted Whitmore should face retrial for the Borrero mugging and still be tried for the murder of Minnie Edmonds. The trial for the Edmonds murder began in April 1965. There was no physical evidence linking Whitmore to the crime and the prosecution had to rely mainly on his confession — now much-maligned given the fact that someone else was now accused of the double murders for which Whitmore had also originally confessed to. On the stand, Whitmore stood by his story that the confessions were obtained as a result of beatings and claimed that he did not even realize that he was being charged with murder until the indictments. Police detectives denied the allegations. When the jury was unable to reach a verdict, a mistrial was declared. Four days later, DA Hogan formally dismissed the Wylie-Hoffert indictment pending against Whitmore.
In the autumn of 1965, Robles was tried for the Wylie-Hoffert murders. His attorneys attempted to buoy the credibility of Whitmore's Wylie-Hoffert confession to create a reasonable doubt that their own client had committed the crime. However, Prosecutor John F. Keenan replied by summoning Whitmore and the detectives who had arrested him. Whitmore's testimony was erratic, but Keenan's grueling questioning of the detectives illuminated the sloppy analysis of physical evidence that had put Whitmore under suspicion. Whitmore's claims of physical abuse remained in dispute, but threats and trickery had clearly helped elicit his "confession."  His guilt was assumed on racist grounds like one detective's belief that "you can always tell when a Negro is lying by watching his stomach, because it moves in and out when he lies."  Robles' attorneys were unable to translate doubts about police interrogation methods to their own client's advantage, despite testimony that Robles had confessed to the Wylie-Hoffert murders while suffering from heroin withdrawal and without his attorney present.
On December 1, 1965, Richard Robles was found guilty of the murders of Emily Hoffert and Janice Wylie and sentenced to life in prison, the New York Legislature having, just months before, abolished the death penalty, except in the cases of the killing of police officers, prison guards and murders committed while escaping jail. He was found guilty, largely on the basis of secretly tape-recorded conversations about the murders. Observers debated the verdict because Robles' self-incriminating statements were made to a fellow junkie, Nathan Delaney, who had become an informant and testified in return for immunity in an unrelated homicide. Despite the conviction of Robles, numerous questions regarding the police conduct in this case were left unanswered. "Police detectives, who may have been motivated by their sense of justice, resorted to highly questionable means to extract a confession from a suspect who was too weak to resist. Their colossal blunders in the career girls murder case almost put George Whitmore Jr. on death row for a crime he certainly did not commit. No formal charges were ever brought against Detectives Bulger and DiPrima who consistently denied any wrongdoing in the case. But exactly how Whitmore was able to supply a 61-page confession to a double murder he never committed was never explained."
In March 1966, Whitmore was tried for the second time for the attack on Elba Borrero, who maintained he was her aggressor. Defense counsel Stanley J. Reiben tried to cast doubt on his client's confession to the assault on the grounds it was obtained in the same manner as the repudiated Wylie-Hoffert confession. The presiding judge, New York Supreme Court Justice Aaron F. Goldstein, ruled the Wylie-Hoffert confession inadmissible and Whitmore was found guilty and sentenced to between five and ten years in prison.
Kings County Supreme Court Justice Hyman Barshay later dismissed the indictment against Whitmore in the Edmonds case. The Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court also ruled the failure to admit the Wylie-Hoffert confession in the Borrero trial was a "prejudicial error" and Whitmore faced his third trial on the case. In June 1967 he was found guilty and again sentenced from five to ten years.
Whitmore's lawyers proceeded to appeal all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, but each court of appeal upheld the guilty verdict. In December 1972, after Whitmore had exhausted his appeals, journalist Selwyn Rabb, who had covered Whitmore’s travails for the New York World Telegram and Sun, obtained dramatic new evidence — an affidavit from Borrero’s sister-in-law, Celeste Viruet. The affidavit said, before Borrero identified Whitmore, police had shown her an array of photos of other possible suspects — and she had identified positively another man as her assailant. By this time, Brooklyn had a new district attorney, Eugene Gold, who confirmed the accuracy of the affidavit. On April 10, 1973, a Supreme Court judge vacated Whitmore’s conviction, officially exonerating him. Whitmore received no compensation for his wrongful imprisonment.
It is important to note the third conviction was obtained in part as a result of police and district attorney's office's suppression of the existence of an eyewitness to the assault on Mrs. Borrero. As noted by Circuit Judge Mulligan, in dissent, "Appellant urges here, as he did in the district court, that it was not until the Spring (March–May) 1969 post-trial evidentiary hearing that counsel for Whitmore ever learned that there was an eyewitness to the assault on Mrs. Borrero. It was then ascertained that Detective Aidala who was in charge of the Minnie Edmonds' murder investigation and took over the Borrero case because of a possible similarity of modus operandi, kept a notebook which indicated that Celeste Viruet, the sister-in-law of the victim, had seen her being grabbed in the early morning of April 23, 1964 while looking out of her apartment window. Counsel for Whitmore in all three Borrero trials have submitted affidavits denying that they ever knew of or were advised of the existence of Celeste Viruet, the silent witness in the window. Celeste Viruet was never called by the State in any of the trials nor has she ever appeared in any evidentiary or other proceeding relating to Whitmore. The State makes no contention that defense counsel was ever specifically advised of the existence of this witness."  The description provided by the "hidden" witness of the alleged attacker materially differed from Whitmore's actual physical appearance. No punishment attached to the District Attorney's office for this suppression of evidence.
Robles, who had himself protested his innocence over the original double-murders, finally admitted his guilt to a parole board hearing in November 1986. He had broken into the flat in order to obtain money for drugs and had assumed at first it was empty. When Wylie, who had been taking a shower, appeared, he attacked and raped her. Hoffert had turned up shortly afterwards and he attacked her as well. Defiantly, she told him that she would remember his face and report him to the police, whereupon he murdered both her and Wylie. Robles remained in prison. No charges were pressed against the police officers who had obtained Whitmore's "confessions".
The case of George Whitmore, Jr. and his treatment by the police was one of many examples used by the US Supreme Court when it issued the guidelines known as the Miranda rights in June 1966 by which, when a defendant is taken into custody and accused of a crime, he must be advised of his constitutional rights. The court acknowledged that coercive interrogations could produce false confessions, a footnote stating that "[t]he most conspicuous example occurred in New York in 1964 when a Negro of limited intelligence confessed to two brutal murders and a rape which he had not committed. When this was discovered, the prosecutor was reported as saying: 'Call it what you want — brain-washing, hypnosis, fright. The only thing I don't believe is that Whitmore was beaten.'"
The Whitmore case was also significant in the restriction and eventual elimination of the death penalty in New York State. Although the death penalty ultimately returned to New York State, no inmate was put to death under the restored law and the law has since been overturned and rendered non-functional by the New York State Court of Appeals.
In popular culture
The case was the basis of the TV movie The Marcus-Nelson Murders starring Telly Savalas as police Lt. Theo Kojak, which became the pilot for the Kojak crime drama in which Savalas also starred. Kojak himself was a composite character, based on a number of detectives, lawyers and reporters who were involved in the 1963 Wylie-Hoffert murder case, which included police detective Thomas J. Cavanagh Jr., known to his colleagues as "the velvet whip", and who had been part of the team that cleared Whitmore of the double-murder.
A police procedural and legal drama, the plot closely follows the events of the Wylie-Hoffert case from the discovery of the bodies to the arrest for attempted rape of a suspect who is then charged with their killings after being beaten and tricked into confessing without realizing that he is being charged with murder. It includes the investigations into the photo; the arrest of a dealer who then implicates a drug addict; and the subsequent surveillance and capture of the real killer.
George Whitmore is renamed Lewis Humes and portrayed by Gene Woodbury. José Ferrer co-stars as his defense attorney, while Marjoe Gortner plays Teddy Hopper, the real killer. The movie emphasizes how the case led to the passing of the Miranda rights by the Supreme Court. In his narration and comments to other characters, Kojak blames much of the events on the desire for commendation and promotion of officers and officials involved in the case.
August 28, 1963 — Janice Wylie, a 21-year-old Newsweek magazine researcher and summer stock actress, and Emily Hoffert, a 23-year-old teacher, are stabbed to death in the apartment they share at 57 E. 88th Street in Manhattan (New York County). Wylie was raped. She was the daughter of Max Wylie, a New York novelist, playwright, and advertising executive. Hoffert is the daughter of a Minneapolis surgeon.
August 30, 1963 — Newsweek offers a $10,000 reward for the arrest and conviction of the murderer or murderers.
April 14, 1964 — Minnie Edmonds, a 46-year-old African-American cleaning woman and mother of five, is stabbed to death by a man who attempted to snatch her purse near Sutter Avenue and Chester Street in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn (Kings County).
April 23, 1964 — Elba Borrero, a 21-year-old Puerto Rican practical nurse, is assaulted at 1:15 a.m. in what she describes as an attempted purse-snatching in Brownsville. NYPD Patrolman Frank Isola hears Borrero scream and runs to the scene. He fires four warning shots at the fleeing assailant. Police Sergeant Thomas J. Collier interviews Borrero and writes a report describing the assailant as "an unnamed Negro" and the crime as an attempted purse-snatching. Borrero gives police a button she ripped off the assailant’s coat. Five hours after the assault, Isola encounters George Whitmore Jr. on the street, but concludes that Whitmore is shorter and thinner than the man he saw running from the scene.
April 24, 1964 — Cruising Brownsville, Isola and Detective Richard Aidala spot Whitmore and, despite the discrepancy between his appearance and that of the assailant Isola had seen, take him to the 73d Precinct station for questioning. After Aidala calls Borrero and tells her a suspect is in custody, she views Whitmore through a peephole in a door and says he is the man who tried to rape her. (This is the first mention of attempted rape.) Whitmore has in his possession a photograph of a young white woman whom Detective Edward Bulger identifies as Janice Wylie.
April 25, 1964 — After 26 hours of interrogation, Whitmore, a 19-year-old eighth-grade dropout with an IQ of 90, signs a 61-page confession admitting to the murders of Wylie, Hoffert and Edmonds and attempted rape of Borrero.
April 28, 1964 — Whitmore is indicted in Kings County for the Edmonds murder. His court-appointed attorney, Jerome Leftow, states at Whitmore's arraignment that Whitmore has repudiated the confessions, claiming he was beaten during interrogation and would like to take a lie-detector test.
May 5, 1964 — Whitmore is indicted in Kings County for the attempted rape and assault of Borrero.
May 6, 1964 — Whitmore is indicted in New York County for the Wylie-Hoffert crime.
October 9, 1964 — Drug dealer Nathan Delaney is arrested for the murder of Roberto Cruz del Valle. As part of a deal, he gives police the name of a man whom he claims is the real killer of Emily Hoffert and Janice Wylie, and is not connected to Whitmore.
October 31, 1964 — Police disclose that they are questioning another unidentified suspect in the Wylie-Hoffert case. The suspect is identified as a 19-year-old narcotics addict who has a record of burglary and sexual assault. (Evidently the suspect is Richard Robles, although Robles is not 19 but in his early 20s.)
November 9, 1964 — Whitmore’s trial for the attempted rape and assault of Borrero opens in Brooklyn.
November 18, 1964 — Whitmore is convicted by a jury before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice David L. Malbin of the Borrero assault and attempted rape, but Malbin delays sentencing pending Whitmore’s trial for the Wylie-Hoffert murders.
November 18, 1964 — January 1965 — Whitmore's mother, dissatisfied with her son's court appointed attorney's defense at the attempted rape trial, consults with Arthur H. Miller, Esq. and his partner, who are known in the Brownsville community as being young crusading lawyers for the underprivileged. Miller initially rejects her requests on three separate occasions as he feels he is too inexperienced to represent a defendant in such a big case, but is ultimately convinced by Whitmore's mother of her son's innocence. Finally, after being confronted with both Whitmore's Mother and her priest, Miller consults with Stanley J. Reiben, Esq., an experienced trial attorney, and together they undertake Whitmore's representation, pro-bono.
January 22, 1965 — The New York Times quotes Stanley J. Reiben, Whitmore’s pro bono lawyer, as saying that the photo found in Whitmore’s possession was not a photo of Wylie but of a woman named Arlene Franco, who lives in Wildwood, N.J.
January 26, 1965 — Richard Robles, a Latino 22-year-old narcotics addict, is charged with the Wylie-Hoffert crime. While not dismissing the indictment against Whitmore, New York County DA Frank S. Hogan presents a 1,400-word recommendation that Whitmore be released on his own recognizance. The document seems to absolve Whitmore of the crime, as does a statement Hogan releases to the press. Says the latter, "In spite of every safeguard, occasional honest mistakes are made. To eliminate even this minute fraction of error is the ceaseless effort of those entrusted with the administration of justice." Hogan’s recommendation that Whitmore be released is accepted, although it is a meaningless gesture, given that Whitmore is being held pending sentencing for the Borrero crime and pending trial for the Edmonds murder.
January 27, 1965 — The New York Times quotes an unnamed assistant to DA Hogan as saying, "I am positive that the police prepared the confession for Whitmore, just as his lawyer charged a few days ago. I am also sure that the police were the ones who gave Whitmore all the details of the killings that he recited to our office."
January 29, 1965 — Kings County DA Aaron E. Koota meets with five representatives of the Brooklyn N.A.A.C.P. who demand that he dismiss the indictment against Whitmore for the Edmonds murder. Koota refuses and tells the press that Whitmore’s "guilt or innocence of this crime should be determined by a jury based on all the evidence in the case."
January 30, 1965 — The New York Times publishes an editorial praising both Reiben and Hogan for acting "in the highest tradition of the bar." The editorial says that the case "provokes fresh doubt" about the validity of the death penalty and urges its abolition.
February 1, 1965 — Whitmore’s former attorney, Leftow, and one of his current attorneys, Arthur H. Miller, reveal that Whitmore had been given "truth serum" (sodium amytal) at Bellevue Hospital and, while under the influence of the drug, had consistently maintained his innocence. The N.A.A.C.P. and ACLU ask Governor Nelson Rockefeller and FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover to investigate the circumstances that led to Whitmore’s false confession in the Wylie-Hoffert case.
February 2, 1965 — A U.S. Justice Department spokesperson says the department is "following the situation closely."
February 4, 1965 — Rockefeller spurns the N.A.A.C.P. demand for an investigation.
February 11, 1965 — Reiben files a motion asking Justice Malbin to set aside Whitmore’s conviction in the Borerro case on the grounds that police lacked probable cause to arrest Whitmore and that his confession, therefore, whether voluntary or involuntary, should have been suppressed at the trial. The motion states that Detective Aidala had testified before the grand jury that he arrested Whitmore on a Brooklyn street — a veritable concession that police lacked probable cause. The motion also states that, in an unrelated case, Detective Bulger had obtained a confession from 22-year-old David Coleman to the 1960 murder of a 77-year-old woman in Brooklyn — a crime for which Coleman is on death row.
February 14, 1965 — Koota agrees to reopen the Coleman case.
February 15, 1965 — Robles is indicted for the Wylie/Hoffert murders. Robles "maintains his innocence," according to his court-appointed attorney.
March 1, 1965 — Gerald Corbin, a juror in the Borrero case, testifies at a hearing before Justice Malbin on the motion for a new trial that "practically everyone" on the jury knew that Whitmore had been charged with the Wylie-Hoffert crime. According to Corbin, one of his fellow jurors stated, "This is nothing compared to what he is going to get in New York." Corbin also testifies that at least one juror "on more than one occasion" used racial slurs referring to the sexual proclivities of Negroes and Puerto Ricans. Whitmore, said the juror in question, was guilty of attempted rape because Negroes are "like jackrabbits" and "got to have their intercourse all the time." An FBI report, which the prosecution had withheld at the trial, is introduced at the hearing. It states that the button Borrero ripped from her assailant’s coat differed in size and color from the buttons on the tan poplin raincoat Whitmore was wearing when he was taken into custody.
March 2, 1965 — Koota concedes that Whitmore deserves a new trial in the Borrero case, but Malbin reserves ruling.
March 3, 1965 — At a hearing before Justice Dominic S. Rinaldi, before whom the Edmonds case is pending, defense lawyers move to suppress Whitmore’s confession on the ground that police lacked probable cause to arrest him and that, in any event, the confession is unworthy of belief in view of Whitmore’s false confession in the Wylie-Hoffert case. On the probable cause issue, Aidala testifies that he erred when he told the grand jury that he had arrested Whitmore on the street. In fact, Aidala now asserts, he merely asked Whitmore to go to the station, Whitmore "willingly agreed," and the arrest was not made until Borrero identified Whitmore.
March 8, 1965 — Patrolman Isola testifies before Rinaldi that he did not arrest Whitmore upon their initial encounter, five hours after the Borrero assault, because Whitmore "did not appear to be same man" he had seen fleeing the scene.
March 9, 1965 — Sergeant Collier, who took the initial report from Borrero, testifies that she did not mention the attempted rape but rather alleged only that her assailant "attempted to take her pocketbook."
March 19, 1965 — Justice Malbin finds that the jury in the Borrero case had been influenced by "prejudice and racial bias" and reverses Whitmore’s conviction, granting him a new trial. Curiously, the Appellate division in People v. Whitmore, 27 A.D.2d 939, 278 N.Y.S.2d 706 (1967), sustained the grant of the new trial but on the grounds that the trial court improperly denied Whitmore's attorney's a fair opportunity to cross examine witness with the illegally obtained confessions. The Appellate division does not address the jury bias issues.
March 25, 1965 — DA Hogan dismisses first-degree murder charges against two drifters — James Stewart, 24, and R. L. Douglas, 32 — who had been charged with the hammer-slaying of John Walshinsky, a derelict — a crime to which Stewart and Douglas confessed. The men say that the confessions were beaten out of them.
March 26, 1965 — Rinaldi rules that Whitmore’s confession to the Edmonds murder was voluntary and admissible. Rinaldi chastises Reiben for "talking to the newspapers" about the case.
April 2, 1965 — The N.A.A.C.P. reveals that Detective Bulger, in addition to his involvement in obtaining the dubious Coleman confession, also had been accused in another case of obtaining a confession by fraud from a man named Charles Everett. If Everett would admit the crime, Bulger allegedly promised to intercede with the victim to work out a light sentence. The victim in fact was dead. Everett was convicted of murder, but his conviction was later reversed.
April 12, 1965 — Whitmore’s trial for the Edmonds slaying opens before an all-male blue-ribbon jury and Kings County Supreme Court Justice Dominic S. Rinaldi. (Blue-ribbon juries — criticized by liberal groups as self-righteous and conviction-prone — are composed of persons from high educational and economic levels and permitted in counties with more than a million population under a New York statute enacted in the 1930s.)
April 14, 1965 — Detective Joseph Di Pima testifies that Whitmore’s confessions were voluntary, telling the jury, "All I had to say to him was: "What happened next, George?"
April 15, 1965 — Whitmore’s 46-year-old father, George Sr., suffers a heart attack in the courtroom.
April 19, 1965 — In view of "the antipathy and antagonism" Justice Rinaldi has shown Reiben, he asks to withdraw from the Whitmore case, saying he can no longer effectively represent his client. Ranaldi denies the request.
April 21, 1965 — The prosecution rests.
April 23, 1965 — Whitmore testifies that Detective Aidala and Patrolman Frank Isola beat him.
April 28, 1965 — Prosecutor Sidney A. Lichtman tells the jury that the Wylie-Hoffert indictment is still pending in Manhattan. Reiben argues, "How can the Wylie-Hoffert confession be bad and the others good beyond a reasonable doubt, given the same day to the same detectives? Is it possible for Wylie-Hoffert to be phoney while the others are not?"
April 30, 1965 — Jury foreman Harold B. Hacker tells Rinaldi that the jury is hopelessly deadlocked, with two or three members in favor of conviction and a like number in favor of acquittal. The others, says Hacker, are "confused" as a result of the discredited confession in the Wylie-Hoffert case. Rinaldi declares a mistrial.
May 4, 1965 — DA Hogan formally dismisses the Wylie-Hoffert indictment pending against Whitmore in Manhattan.
May 5, 1965 — DA Koota says his office will again try Whitmore for the Borrero attempted assault and rape in Brooklyn.
May 13, 1965 — The New York Senate by a vote of forty-seven to nine approves a bill abolishing the death penalty for all murders except those of peace officers or prison guards and murders committed during an escape.
May 19, 1965 — The New York Assembly passes the abolition bill by a vote of seventy-eight to sixty-seven.
May 26, 1965 — Justice Vincent D. Damiani of Kings County Supreme Court grants a motion by Reiben requiring Koota to bring Whitmore to trial for the Edmonds murder before retrying him for the lesser crime against Borrero. "To permit the defendant to be tried again on the lesser charge of attempted rape before his trial on the more serious indictment for murder will result in further publicity and substantially increase the difficulty in selecting an impartial jury in the murder case," Damiani writes.
June 1, 1965 — Rockefeller signs the abolition bill.
June 3, 1965 — Koota argues before George J. Beldock, presiding justice of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court, that Damiani had no authority to exert control over the prosecution calendar. Beldock directs Damiani to explain more fully why Whitmore should not be tried first for the Borrero case.
June 8, 1965 — The Appellate Division unanimously holds that Whitmore may be tried first in the Borrero case.
July 15, 1965 — Governor Nelson Rockefeller signs legislation abolishing blue-ribbon juries.
October 14, 1965 — Robles goes on trial before a jury and New York County Supreme Court Justice Irwin D. Davidson for the Wylie-Hoffert murders.
October 18, 1965 — Prosecutors disclose that friends of Robles cooperated in the surreptitious recording of conversations in which he admitted the double murder. When confronted with the tapes after his arrest, Robles "freely and voluntarily confessed" in the presence of eight police officers, including Thomas J. Cavanagh Jr., the commander of the Manhattan detective squad.
December 1, 1965 — The jury finds Robles guilty.
January 11, 1966 — Justice Davidson sentences Robles to life in prison.
March 22, 1966 — Whitmore’s retrial for the attempted rape and assault of Borrero opens before a Kings County jury and Supreme Court Justice Aaron F. Goldstein.
March 23, 1966 — After Detective Aidala testifies that Whitmore’s confession to the Borrero crime was voluntary, Reiben asks, "Did anyone coerce or force him into making the Wylie-Hoffert confession?" Goldstein immediately dismisses the jury and then upbraides Reiben for his "intemperate question." Out of the jury’s presence, Reiben labels Aidala "the world’s biggest liar," and asks Goldstein, "How can I achieve justice unless I can establish this?" Goldstein says he will reserve ruling on the admissibility of the evidence resulting to Whitmore’s confession in the Wylie-Hoffert case.
March 24, 1966 — Goldstein holds evidence of the Wylie-Hoffert confession inadmissible. Reiben waives further examination of witnesses, declaring that Whitmore cannot receive a fair trial while the Wylie-Hoffert evidence is withheld. Both sides rest.
March 25, 1966 — Whitmore is convicted for the second time in the Borrero case.
May 27, 1966 — Goldstein sentences Whitmore to five to ten years in prison for the attempted rape and assault. With time off for good behavior and credit for 25 months already served, Whitmore is eligible for release in 15 months.
June 13, 1966 — U.S. Supreme Court holds in Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966), that police must warn suspects of their rights to remain silent and consult with a lawyer before submitting to questioning.
June 30, 1966 — On Koota’s motion, Kings County Supreme Court Justice Hyman Barshay dismisses the indictment against Whitmore in the Edmonds case.
July 12, 1966 — Barshay sets bail at $5,000 for Whitmore pending appeal of his conviction in the Borrero case.
July 13, 1966 — Two years, eleven weeks, and three days after his arrest — 810 days in all — Whitmore is released on bail guaranteed by radio station WMCA.
April 10, 1967 — The Appellate Division of the Supreme Court reverses Whitmore’s conviction in the Borrero case and grants him yet another trial, holding that "under the peculiar circumstances of this case, it was prejudicial error for the trial court to refuse to allow cross examination with reference to all of the defendant’s statements to the police."
April 13, 1967 — Koota says that "in the interests of justice" Whitmore will be tried a third time for the Borrero crime.
May 15, 1967 — Whitmore’s third trial opens before Justice Julius Helfand in Kings County Supreme Court and jury selection is completed. In view of the Miranda ruling, the confession is inadmissible. The case now rests entirely on Borrero’s identification.
May 16, 1967 — Both sides rest.
May 17, 1967 — The jury returns a verdict of guilty. Whitmore is taken into custody for a psychiatric examination as required by state law. If the law did not so require, Helfand says, he would have continued Whitmore’s bail.
June 8, 1967 — Whitmore is again sentenced to five to ten years in prison.
March 27, 1968 — Borrero breaks into tears on the witness stand, and shouts, "All I know is, George Whitmore attacked me that night. I know it, he knows it, and God knows it."
June 15, 1968 — Kings County Supreme Court Justice Philip M. Kleinfeld grants a motion to release Whitmore on $5,000 bail. The additional time he has spent in custody following his third conviction in the Borrero case has added 395 days of incarceration to the 810 days he served pending his first two trials and his first release on bail, bringing Whitmore’s total incarceration time to two years, fifteen weeks, and five days.
July 25, 1968 — The Appellate Division holds Whitmore’s latest appeal in abeyance pending a hearing before Justice Helfand on the validity of the in-court identification by Borrero in view of the fact that her initial identification of him was at a one-man show-up through a peephole.
November 5, 1968 — Eugene Gold is elected to succeed Koota as Brooklyn DA.
April 8, 1969 — Justice Helfand upholds the validity of the identification, saying there was "an unmistakable ring of truth to her testimony."
July 28, 1970 — The Supreme Court’s Appellate Division unanimously affirms Whitmore’s third conviction in the Borrero case.
September 24, 1970 — New York Court of Appeals affirms the conviction of Robles in the Wylie-Hoffert case.
April 21, 1971 — The New York Court of Appeals by a four-to-three vote upholds Whitmore's conviction without an explanatory opinion. In dissent Judge Breitel belittles his colleagues' decision and failure to give a formal opinion, stating:
Defendant may be innocent of this crime as he was of the other crimes to which he falsely confessed in detail. The issue therefore is not one of technical or procedural matters affecting one justly punishable, but not justly punished because of real or fancied procedural unfairness. The conviction then is one that cuts to the bone and, unless resolved beyond a reasonable doubt, is intolerable in a civilized criminal justice system.
February 28, 1972 — The U.S. Supreme Court denies certiorari in the case and Whitmore is taken into custody.
December 22, 1972 — Brooklyn DA Eugene Gold announces he is reopening the case in view of an affidavit obtained by journalist Selwyn Raab from Borrero’s sister-in-law, Celeste Viruet, who lived near Borrero at the time of the assault but has since returned to her native Puerto Rico. The affidavit states that before Borrero identified Whitmore police had shown her a photo array and she had identified another person as her assailant.
March 8, 1973 — CBS airs "The Marcus-Nelson Murders," a three-hour film based on the Wylie-Hoffert murders with Telly Savalas starring as Detective Lieutenant Theo Kojack (later shortened to Kojak) — a character loosely based on Detective Cavanagh, who had been instrumental in uncovering the evidence that cleared Whitmore of the murders and led to Robles.
April 10, 1973 — Whitmore is released by Supreme Court Justice Irwin Brownstein at the request of Gold based on "fresh new evidence" indicating that Borrero’s identification of him was ’suspect." Gold tells Brownstein, "If in fact he is guilty of these charges, surely his debt to society has been paid by his incarceration. If he is innocent, I pray that my action today will in some measure repay society’s debt to him." Whitmore’s most recent incarceration totals 406 days, bringing his total time behind bars to 1,216 days.
February 23, 1981 — Appellate Division affirms the dismissal of the majority of Whitmore's civil claims for his wrongful conviction.
October 2, 1988 — The New York Times publishes an article by Selwyn Raab, who interviewed Robles in light of a forthcoming pardon hearing. Raab quotes Robles as saying that he broke into the Wylie-Hoffert apartment believing no one was home. He was looking for money to support his $15-a-day heroin habit but when he encountered Wylie he raped her. Then he bound her and was preparing to leave when Hoffert came home. He took $30 from her purse and bound her as well. As he again prepared to leave, Hoffert said, "I"m going to remember you for the police. You"re going to jail." When she said that, Robles continued, "I just went bananas. My head just exploded. I got to kill. You"re mind just races and races. It’s almost like you"re not you." He said he clubbed both women unconscious with pop bottles, then slashed and stabbed them with knives he found in their kitchen.
February 19, 1995 — Newsday publishes an interview with George Whitmore and Arthur H. Miller, Esq., regarding legislative efforts to restore the death penalty to New York State. Whitmore states that such efforts bring back "painful memories" of when he really thought he "was going to the electric chair" and that "[i]t shouldn't be, the death penalty... It should never have been. The death penalty is the old 'eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth.' And that just don't work." Arthur H. Miller states, in turn, that Whitmore's innocence should be a powerful warning to anyone who wants to reinstate capital punishment. "The ills you had with the Whitmore case will come up again, and you will have innocent people who will be executed."
August 2, 1996 — Thomas J. Cavanagh Jr. dies in retirement in Margate, Florida.
1998 — Arthur H. Miller, Esq. dies after a bout of illness. At the time of his death, he was still practicing law, representing the poor and underprivileged. One of his great concerns was that by this time the death penalty had returned to New York and that the lessons of Whitmore seemed to have been forgotten.
May 7, 2002 — Robles is denied parole by the New York State Division of Parole following a parole release hearing. He is ordered to be held for another twenty-four months. Robles administratively challenges that denial and subsequently files a petition in the New York state courts pursuant to Civil Practice Law and Rules (“C.P.L.R.”) Article 78.
August 28, 2003, — The New York State Supreme Court, Wyoming County (Dadd, J.), dismisses Robles' Article 78 petition. Robles appeals to the Appellate Division, Fourth Department, of New York State Supreme Court, which affirms the lower court’s decision on July 9, 2004 and the New York State Court of Appeals denies leave to appeal.
May 4, 2004, — Robles appears again before the parole board to be reconsidered for release, which again is denied. Robles is ordered to be held for another twenty-four months. Robles files a notice of appeal, but he never perfects his appeal of the 2004 denial of parole.
June 15, 2005 — Robles, proceeding pro se, files a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 challenging his denial of parole on May 7, 2002, which was ultimately denied.
May, 2010 — Robles is again denied parole.
- ^ "'Career Girls' Murderer Is Denied Parole Again". The New York Times: p. 2. 4 November 1988. http://www.nytimes.com/1988/11/04/nyregion/career-girls-murderer-is-denied-parole-again.html. Retrieved 27 August 2011.
- ^ trutv.com - The Career Girls Murders by Mark Gado, page 2
- ^ a b "Crime Story", James Wechsler, NY Post 1/21/65
- ^ id.
- ^ trutv.com - The Career Girls Murders by Mark Gado, page 6
- ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r Id.
- ^ a b The Whitmore Confessions and Richard Robles Trial: 1965 - Confessions Discredited
- ^ "George Whitmore Takes the Long Ride Home, Ted Poston, NY Post, July 14
- ^ "Whitmore Saved by Lawyer's Hunch-and Footwork", New York Post.
- ^ The Village Voice, November 4, 1965
- ^ The Village Voice, August 3, 1972
- ^ trutv.com - The Career Girls Murders by Mark Gado, page 9
- ^ a b The Whitmore Confessions and Richard Robles Trial: 1965 - Richard Robles Arrested
- ^ a b c George Whitmore Case Chronology compiled by Rob Warden
- ^ http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/notorious_murders/not_guilty/career_girls/15.html
- ^ trutv.com - The Career Girls Murders by Mark Gado, page 13
- ^ http://www.law.northwestern.edu/wrongfulconvictions/exonerations/nyWhitmoreSummary.html
- ^ Newsday, "Innocent Man Who Faced Chair"", 2/19/95, Whitmore states his attorneys obtained enough money for him from a wrongful conviction case he was able to "buy a small cow farm in New Jersey."
- ^ United States Ex Rel. George Whitmore, Jr., Relator-appellant, v. Bernard J. Malcolm, New York City Commissioner Ofcorrection, et al., Respondents-appellees United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit, 476 F.2d 363
- ^ trutv.com - The Career Girls Murders by Mark Gado, page 15
- ^ supreme.justia.com - Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966)
- ^ The Whitmore Confessions and Richard Robles Trial: 1965 - Whitmore Retried In Assault Case
- ^ 'Career Girls' Murderer Is Denied Parole Again, published by The New York Times, Friday, November 4, 1988
- ^ The Marcus-Nelson Murders (1973) at imdb.com
- ^ "Thomas J. Cavanagh Jr., 82, Who Inspired 'Kojak,' Dies" published by the New York Times on Sunday, August 4, 1996
- ^ https://www.law.northwestern.edu/wrongfulconvictions/exonerations/nyWhitmoreChronology.html
- ^ Whitmore Saved by Lawyer's Hunch - and Footwork", New York Post
- ^ People v. Whitmore, 28 N.Y.2d 826, 322 N.Y.S.2d 65 (1971)
- ^ Whitmore v. City of New York, 80 A.D.2d 638, 436 N.Y.S.2d 323 (February 23, 1981)
- ^ Raab, Selwyn (October 2, 1988). "Parole Action Could Close Landmark Murder Case". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/1988/10/02/nyregion/parole-action-could-close-landmark-murder-case.html.
- ^ Newsday, Innocent Man who Faced Chair, 2/19/95
- ^ http://www.websupp.org/data/WDNY/1:05-cv-00428-16-WDNY.pdf
- ^ http://nysdocslookup.docs.state.ny.us/GCA00P00/WIQ3/WINQ130
- ^ "Parole Board Calendar". NYS Division of Parole. http://22.214.171.124/paroleboardcalendar/interviews.asp?name=R&year=2010&month=05. Retrieved 19 July 2011.
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