National News

Clayton man among three freed in Virginia rape-slaying

Posted August 6, 2009
Updated August 7, 2009

— 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 and Democratic contributor John Grisham. The men's supporters say it's not enough and want them declared innocent.

Gov. Tim Kaine on Thursday granted conditional pardons to ex-sailors Derek Tice, of Clayton; Danial Williams and Joseph Dick Jr. Along another ex-sailor Eric Wilson, they 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 8½ years in prison but was acquitted of Moore-Bosko's murder. Since 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 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.

Frank Stokes, one of 30 former FBI agents who reviewed the cases and concluded the men were wrongfully convicted, called the governor's decision outrageous. He said glaring inconsistencies in the confessions "show more the innocence than the guilt of these young men."

Not all the men's supporters reacted as strongly, however.

"While I would have preferred he grant an absolute pardon, it's a very practical-oriented result," said Richard Cullen, a former state attorney general.

Kaine had previously issued just four other conditional pardons and three absolute pardons. Supporters had pleaded with Kaine to act on the requests before leaving office. Kaine said he couldn't immerse himself in the complex case until the last of the appeals were exhausted in January.

The men's lawyers vowed to continue the fight, perhaps by filing a new clemency petition with the next governor. Kaine's nonrenewable four-year term ends in January.

"This grave miscarriage of justice will not fully end until the Commonwealth of Virginia officially recognizes that all four men are innocent and their good names have been cleared," said Des Hogan, who represents Tice.

40 Comments

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  • james27613 Aug 7, 2009

    Uh, I don't think so, 'Lawyer up",
    they are sailors, Name Rank etc. again and again.

    I want a Lawyer please.

  • james27613 Aug 7, 2009

    I don't get it, they admitted to the murder but the new gov
    says they did not prove their innocence??
    You do not prove your innocence, the prosecution proves
    you are guilty. We are all innocent until proven guilty
    beyond the shadow of a doubt.

    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.

    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.

  • tgw Aug 7, 2009

    Hay disco-I understand. When you are young, scared sh..less, and being hammered mercilessly, alot happens. They forget about their rights-and some cops don't remind them. And these were less than stellar cops.

  • Professor Aug 7, 2009

    This is really an insult to all sailors. May all three have a hard time in life and wish they had served their time.

  • Professor Aug 7, 2009

    All ladies should stay away from these men. They will do the same thing to you.

  • Professor Aug 7, 2009

    So its really OK for a young girl to be assaulted and rape and her perpetrators gets away with murder. What a crazy world we now live in. They all should have received life in prison. What is wrong with the judge, jury and the courts? What if this was your daughter that was assaulted and rape. May they all see this young lady every time they close their eyes. They don't deserve a moment of peace.

  • discowhale Aug 7, 2009

    tgw,
    the serious problem with these guys interrogation was that NONE of them ever asked for a lawyer. I never understood that. I know a sailor who was "detained" in San Diego once for attempting to steal his own car. He screamed for a JAG lawyer. They let him go.

    They tell you to ask for a lawyer if there is a problem with police, and these guys didn't do it. Even if they were guilty, they should have asked for a JAG lawyer.

  • Tired of thoughtlessness Aug 7, 2009

    veyor- You could always google.
    That seems to be the most "factual" information we can get.

  • chfdcpt Aug 7, 2009

    Uhm, do some of you remember this little incident that happened about 15 miles west of us? Does the fact that DNA evidence was being purposely being withheld by the DA? How the facts presented by the investigating officers did not matter to the DA?

    Does the name Nifong bring back memories?

  • Adelinthe Aug 7, 2009

    Phrostbite - "Makes it awful hard to believe you are innocent after you have confessed."

    Unless one has spent time researching the witch trials.

    God bless.

    RB

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