On Monday a federal judge vacated the convictions of Danial Williams and Joseph Dick, two of four Navy sailors known as the Norfolk Four who were wrongfully convicted of a 1997 rape and murder.
When Michelle Moore-Bosko was found dead in her Norfolk, Virginia apartment, police called in her neighbor, Danial Williams, for questioning. Williams initially maintained his innocence, but eventually confessed after police falsely said he failed a polygraph test, which he actually passed.
Five months later, results from DNA testing of evidence from the crime scene excluded Williams. Police then brought in Williams’ roommate, Joseph Dick, who, after a lengthy interrogation, confessed to committing the crime along with Williams.
When Dick was also excluded from the DNA evidence, police called in a third man, Eric Wilson, who eventually confessed to committing the crime with Williams and Dick.
When Wilson was excluded from the DNA evidence, police questioned Williams again. During the questioning, Williams implicated several more men, including Derek Tice. Tice eventually confessed to committing the crime along with Williams, Dick and Wilson, but the DNA also excluded him.
In February of 1999, a woman turned over to police a letter from Omar Ballard, an inmate in prison for the rape of a 14-year-old, in which he took credit for Moore-Bosko’s rape and murder. When DNA testing linked Ballard to the crime scene, he confessed to committing the crime alone. However, to avoid the death penalty, Ballard agreed to testify that he committed the crime along with Williams, Dick, Wilson and Tice.
Williams and Dick pleaded guilty, while Wilson and Tice went to trial where they were found guilty.
In 2009, Virginia Governor Tim Kaine granted Williams, Dick and Tice a conditional pardon, reducing their sentences to time served. However, their convictions stood, and they remained on the sex offender registry.
Last week, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring withdrew his opposition to the men’s claims of innocence, admitting that the investigation was flawed.
“They lost their reputations and decades of their lives in prison and under harsh parole conditions as registered sex offenders,” attorneys George Kendall and Don Salzman told the Washington Post.
Tice was exonerated in 2009. Wilson’s conviction still stands.
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