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The Whitmore Confessions and Richard Robles Trial: 1965

Richard Robles Arrested

On January 26, a man named Richard Robles was arrested for the Wylie-Hoffert murders. Upon Robles' arrest, District Attorney Hogan petitioned the courts to release Whitmore from the murder indictment on his own recognizance. Despite Robles' arrest, however, Hogan did not request complete dismissal of the Whitmore indictment. This controversial technicality allowed other prosecutors to rebuff defense claims that Whitmore's confessions to the Edmonds murder and Borrero assault were as unsound as his invalid Wylie-Hoffert confession.

In May 1965, the New York State Legislature outlawed capital punishment. Their decision was influenced by public concern over the false confession that nearly electrocuted George Whitmore. Yet Whitmore's legal troubles were far from over. With the Manhattan district attorney still refusing to clear him entirely in the Wylie-Hoffert case, Whitmore went to trial for murdering Minnie Edmonds, solely on the evidence of his "confession."

After a stormy trial marked by Whitmore's accusation that his confessions had been beaten out of him, police denials, and open feuding between the judge and the defense attorney, the jury could not agree on a verdict. Several days after the Edmonds mistrial was declared, Whitmore was finally cleared in the Wylie-Hoffert case.

Nevertheless, when Robles was tried in the autumn of 1965, 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.

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. He was found guilty, largely on the basis of secretly tape-recorded conversations about the murder. Observers debated the verdict because Robles' self-incriminating statements were made to a fellow junkie, who became an informant and testified in return for immunity in an unrelated homicide.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1963 to 1972The Whitmore Confessions and Richard Robles Trial: 1965 - Confessions Discredited, Richard Robles Arrested, Whitmore Retried In Assault Case, Whitmore Convicted Again, Then Released