George Whitmore Jr., who falsely confessed to three New York City murders in 1964 died last week at the age of 68. According to the obituary in today’s
New York Times
, Whitmore was 19 when police picked him up for questioning and interrogated him for several days. The crimes, which made national headlines, became known as the “Career Girl Murders.” Whitmore, who was African American, was convicted of the murders of two young white women, and the rape and murder of a third victim, based solely on his coerced, signed confession. Whitmore claimed that police officers beat him and that he did not know what he was signing.
He recanted his confessions and maintained his innocence but it would take several years for him to clear his name. A year after he was picked up, Manhattan prosecutors had evidence that Whitmore had been wrongly accused in the double murder and linked the deaths to Richard Robles, who was later convicted and remains in prison. But even after this evidence came to light, it took years before he was finally freed and exonerated of all charges.
Whitmore’s false confession helped bolster the Supreme Court’s Miranda ruling to protect criminal suspects. His case also played a role in the partial repeal of capital punishment in New York State.
Whitmore was living in Wildwood, New Jersey, near where he grew up at time of his death. And according to his daughter, Regina, he never married. He is survived by four daughters, two sons and more than 20 grandchildren.
“He told us about what happened to him,” said Whitmore’s daughter, Regina. “But he said he never held it against anybody. He was always a very sweet man with us. He wanted us to grow up happy.”