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Oregon v. Mathiason

The Whitmore Confessions

On 23 April 1964, George Whitmore, Jr., witnessed an assault on Elba Borrero in Brooklyn and volunteered a description of the attacker to the police. Similarities between the Borrero case and the recent murder of Minnie Edmonds in the same neighborhood prompted detectives to have another talk with Whitmore. After questioning him for 22 hours without the presence of an attorney, detectives announced that Whitmore had confessed to both the Borrero assault and the Edmonds killing. The detectives also got Whitmore to sign a confession that he had committed the unsolved double murder of Janice Wylie and Emily Hoffert in Manhattan.

Whitmore contended that the confessions had been beaten out of him. Even when another arrest was made in the Wylie-Hoffert murders, Whitmore still was not dismissed, causing technicalities in his defense in the Borrero assault case. His guilt was assumed on racist grounds.

On 13 June 1966, when the Supreme Court handed down the Miranda decision regarding the rights of crime suspects, they acknowledged that coercive interrogations could produce false confessions. "[T]he most conspicuous example occurred in New York in 1964," stated a footnote, "when a African American 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.'"

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1995 to PresentOregon v. Mathiason - Significance, A Violation Of Miranda?, The Court Clarifies Miranda, Unfaithful To Miranda?, Impact