Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Career Girls Murders

Justice Rolls On

Governor Nelson Rockefeller (AP)
Governor Nelson
Rockefeller (AP)

"Addict Seized as Career Girls Slayer," "Murf Digs for Facts in Whitmore Snafu," "Prosecutor is Silent on Whitmore Indictment" read some of the headlines in the next day's newspapers. After the arrest of Robles, the Manhattan District Attorney's Office faced a serious dilemma. An angry public and various civil rights organizations were up in arms about the arrest and alleged "confession" by George Whitmore Jr. Chairman Ray Williams of the Brooklyn chapter of N.A.A.C.P. appealed to Governor Nelson Rockefeller to intervene in the case and "use your good offices in the interest of justice."

It was evident that the police had done something very wrong in the Whitmore case. "I am positive," said one district attorney, "that the police prepared the confession for Whitmore... and gave Whitmore all the details of the killings." When Whitmore confessed, there was only one person in the room at the seven-three who had inside knowledge of the crime: Det. Edward Bulger. Not even A.D.A. Peter Koste knew enough of the 88th Street apartment to describe the crime scene, the location of knives and placement of the bodies. But it would not be easy to undo what was done to Whitmore.

He was already convicted in November 1964 of the assault and mugging attempt on Borrero. He also remained under indictment for the Minnie Edmonds slaying and the career girls. But all those cases were in doubt as soon as Robles was arrested. If Whitmore's confession about the career girls was coerced and even fabricated then it was a good possibility that the evidence in the other cases was as well. And then there was the troubling story of David Coleman, a death row inmate in Sing Sing prison.

David Coleman, 22, a black, unemployed laborer from Brooklyn was convicted of the murder and rape of Margaret O'Meara, 77, in 1959. Police, led by Det. Ed Bulger, interrogated Coleman upon his arrest for a period of 36 hours. Coleman eventually confessed to the crime and was charged with murder. During questioning, he also admitted to dozens of burglaries as well. Like Whitmore, he later recanted his confession and said that police forced him into admitting crimes he didn't commit. Coleman was convicted and given a death sentence. The parallels between the two cases were disturbing.

Manhattan NY Supreme Court building
Manhattan NY Supreme Court
building

As for Whitmore, he languished in jail, an embarrassing and obvious reminder of a justice system apparently gone amok. He took to writing a diary of his ordeal while he passed the time. "I don't like to be hurt nor me hurt anyone witch I never did," he wrote, "But when I first came to New York I was aquised of doing things I know nothing about... God knows that I didn't do these things and if I keep praying he will help me" (sic).

In March 1965, Whitmore's conviction for the Borrero mugging came under review. It was discovered that during the trial, some of the jurors had made racist remarks and also discussed the Wylie-Hoffert murders, which they were ordered not to do. State Supreme Court Judge David Malbin questioned jurors under oath on the stand. His conclusion was delivered in a 42-page opinion. "The court concludes that the conviction cannot stand," he wrote, "The hearing revealed that prejudice and racial bias invaded the jury room. Bigotry in any of its sinister forms is reprehensible; it must be crushed."

But it wasn't enough. Despite serious doubt concerning the defendant's guilt and a confession that didn't seem to be worth the paper it was written on, the district attorney's office announced they would re-try Whitmore for the Borrero mugging.

 

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