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Gov. Kaine pardons three members of Norfolk Four

Gov. Kaine pardons three members of Norfolk Four

Three men convicted in the rape and slaying of a fellow sailor’s wife more than a decade ago will walk free to the outrage of the victim’s family — who blamed the decision on political pressure from novelist John Grisham — and the men’s supporters, who say it’s not enough and want them declared innnocent.

Gov. Tim Kaine on Thursday granted conditional pardons to ex-sailors Derek Tice, Danial Williams and Joseph Dick Jr. They along another ex-sailor Eric Wilson were known as “The Norfolk Four” and convicted in the 1997 slaying of 18-year-old Michelle Moore-Bosko. Tice, Williams and Dick were sentenced to life in prison but could all be released by Friday, said Williams’ lawyer, Don Salzman.

Grisham, who has homes in Virginia and Mississippi and is famous for his legal thrillers, has said he believed all four are innocent and is writing a screenplay about their case. Since 2000, he has donated more than $390,000 to Virginia Democrats, including $175,000 to Kaine and his political action committee, according to the Virginia Public Access Project, a statewide tracker of campaign donations. Grisham also serves on the board of The Innocence Project, which fights to free wrongfully convicted inmates.

“Obviously, Mr. Grisham’s wealth and influence are far more important to Governor Kaine’s political aspirations and public image than truth or justice,” Carol Moore and her husband John said in an e-mailed statement.

Grisham did not immediately return calls for comment.

Meanwhile, attorneys for the men harshly criticized Kaine’s decision, saying they would continue to fight for the convictions to be thrown out. The men’s relatives were also dissatisfied.

“We are overjoyed that we have a chance to get our sons back, but this is bittersweet,” said Derek Tice’s mother, Rachel Tice. “This has been an 11-year-plus ordeal for our families. Our sons, who are innocent, lost more than a decade of their lives and their convictions still hang over their heads.”

Besides Grisham, 30 former FBI agents as well as some ex-prosecutors have backed the men, saying they are not guilty.

Moore-Bosko’s parents charged that Kaine, who is chairman of the Democratic National Committee, bowed to political pressure.

“Let him walk in our shoes, let’s see how he would feel,” a sobbing Carol Moore told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from her Pittsburgh home. “This is nothing but political and John Grisham.”

Kaine, who inherited the pardon requests from former Gov. Mark Warner, said he is the only official who has exhaustively reviewed all the cases and said he’s “very comfortable” with his decision. The four men did not conclusively prove their innocence, but there were “grave doubts about at least the level of their complicity in the crime,” he said. Each confessed to the murder. After they were convicted, they claimed their confessions were coerced.

When released, the men will be subject to supervision by the state parole board, Kaine said.

“This was a horrible crime that their young daughter was the victim of, and they are entitled to feel however they want to feel and I wouldn’t suggest anything about the way they should feel,” Kaine said. “My heart really goes out to them like it has through this whole process.”

Wilson spent 8 1/2 years in prison but was acquitted of her murder. Because he is no longer imprisoned, he did not qualify for a conditional pardon, which modifies or ends a sentence imposed by a court.

A fifth man, Omar Ballard, was later convicted and has said he alone raped and killed Moore-Bosko, whose sailor husband was at sea when she was slain in her apartment. His was the only DNA found at the scene, and Kaine said his was the only confession that contained information matching the crime scene.

George Kendall, Dick’s attorney, said Kaine’s failure to grant absolute pardons “further compounds the many mistakes” that were made.

1 Comments

  • August 24, 2009 at 2:11 AM Erik

    All I know is that if I was being charged with a crime and others helped me out in executing it, I would never take sole responsibility for it. It’s not within human nature to not try to survive and spread the blame all over if it means I get a lesser sentence down the road. So for Omar Ballard to claim he was the sole rapist and murderer of Michelle Moore-Bosko and for 4 other men to be convicted of it, is wrong and these men should be free.

    Now I can understand (to the best of my ability, not being a parent, myself) the hurt and pain of her parents’ but all I can imagine is that if I were them, I would want the RIGHT person behind bars—not just the person (s) who 12 humanly, flawed men and women convicted based on shaudy evidence presented by an over-eager prosecuting attorney. That wouldn’t be justice for my daughter—to be complicit in the injustice of making sure the wrong men are kept imprisoned for a crime they didn’t commit.
    Lastly, since FBI agents and prosecutors typically want to see their collars and convictions stick or root for their fellow agents’ and prosecutor’s work to be solid and not overturned—to have 30 members from these groups defend the cause of accused rapists and murderers is pretty remarkable and for the most part unheard of.
    Now thankfully, in this case, the real perpetrator of the vicious crime is in prison, but I would have a really hard time seeing 3 men who did not commit the crimes still imprisoned. But now that they are released they will be forever chased by the stigma of their wrongful conviction and I agree that a “pardon” is not enough and that if there is a man in prison claiming to be the ONLY person involved, these men need to have their reputations and lives restored by the system that stole years of their lives. They need to be able to move on, be able to get a job and try to put this horrific chapter behind them the best that they can. I agree that they need to be declared innocent and the parents need to consider that it is a good thing that people like John Grisham use his status to influence justice for those who don’t have anyone to fight for them. Because if the roles were reversed, they would thank Grisham—not chastise him or gov. Tim Kaine.
    I want to someday go to law school and be a prosecutor, but if that day comes, I want to be sure that the men or women I put away for crimes are the ones who committed the crimes. Sure, I will feel pressure to get the convictions—but that pressure should never lead me to make horrendous mistakes which put the wrong men in prison while the real criminal remains free. I hope someday I am able to affect justice and protect people in this way. Thank you, John Grisham for being a champion of justice.

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