Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Career Girls Murders


Attorney William M. Kunstler
Attorney William M.

Although the Whitmore arrest occurred before the Supreme Court ruling on the Miranda case, there was growing concern about a defendant's right to an attorney and protection from making self-incriminating statements. In a letter to The Times on April 27, attorney William M. Kunstler pointed out constitutional violations in the Whitmore case. "Due process of law may become meaningless," he wrote, "when criminal suspects can be held incommunicado and without benefit of counsel... Whitmore's fundamental rights to counsel and a fair trial have been seriously abridged by the police..."

On April 28, Whitmore was indicted on first-degree murder in the Minnie Edmonds case. That meant he would face the death penalty, then a very real possibility. From 1960 through 1962, 10 men had gone to their deaths in Sing Sing's notorious electric chair. Jerome Leftow repeated in court his client's willingness to submit to a lie detector test and his continued insistence that he did not commit the crimes in question. He stated his client was subjected to forced interrogation and was beaten by police. Of course, any confession that is obtained by force or coercion was inadmissible in court, a principle established by the Supreme Court ruling Brown v. Mississippi in 1936.

Manhattan District Attorney, Frank S. Hogan (Library of Congress)
Manhattan District
Attorney, Frank S.
Hogan (Library of

Meanwhile, Manhattan District Attorney Frank Hogan continued to assemble evidence against Whitmore in preparation for a Grand Jury on the Wiley-Hoffert murders. Prosecutors met in conferences to decide which murder case had priority and in which case they would ask for the death penalty. There was much to do. During the summer of 1964, Whitmore was examined by psychiatrists who were asked to evaluate the prisoner for the court. In October, they had determined that although Whitmore was sane and competent to stand trial, he possessed below-average intelligence and was an eighth grade dropout. But doctors took note of his quiet, reclusive demeanor. "His answers to questions were noticeably meager and lacking in elaboration," one doctor wrote in his report. "There was a striking lack of spontaneity and it was almost impossible to get the patient to carry the ball conversationally, even in regard to neutral day to day events."

By the end of the month, a decision had been made that George Whitmore Jr. should stand trial first in Brooklyn for the mugging of Mrs. Borrero. Prosecutions for the other murders would be worked out depending on the outcome of the trial. Since Whitmore had confessed to all the killings, anticipation was high for a guilty verdict. But prior to the start of the Borrero trial, there were already disturbing rumors about the Whitmore case that eventually made their way to the Brooklyn D.A.s office. Something was wrong with the Whitmore case, something big.

The rumors, which seemed to originate in Manhattan, said there was another suspect under investigation for the Wylie-Hoffert killings.


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