News 08.06.09

Pardons in “Norfolk Four” Case Fall Short

Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine announced today that he had granted conditional pardons to three former Navy sailors based on “serious doubts” about their guilt of a 1997 Norfolk murder. Known as the “Norfolk Four,” the defendants have sought for years to clear their names of a crime DNA shows they didn’t commit. (Clockwise from top left, the men are Joseph Dick, Eric Wilson, Danial Williams and Derek Tice)

Three of the four (Dick, Williams and Tice) remain in prison today and could be released soon based on the governor’s announcement, which reduces their sentences to time served. Attorneys for the men said today they were happy the defendants would be freed, but extremely disappointed that Kaine refused to acknowledge their innocence and fully clear them. DNA testing on several items at the crime scene has been matched to another man, who has pled guilty and confessed to committing the crime alone.

“The Governor’s decision is illogical. He agrees that there was absolutely no physical trace at the crime scene of any of the innocent sailors and that their conflicting confessions create substantial doubt. His pardon statement today never asserts that the Norfolk Four were involved in this terrible crime in any way,” said George Kendall, Joe Dick’s attorney.  “Instead, all he has said is that our clients have failed to conclusively prove that they are innocent. Governor Kaine’s failure to grant absolute pardons based on innocence to these innocent Navy men further compounds the many mistakes of the Norfolk police and prosecutors that led to their wrongful imprisonment.”

Added Don Salzman, Danial Williams’ attorney, “Governor Kaine has set an impossible standard for the grant of an absolute pardon.  The Norfolk Four case is no different than the other 40 or so false confession cases that led to complete exonerations based on DNA evidence.”

Read more about the case on

the official Norfolk Four site


More on today’s announcement:

Associated Press:

VA Governor Pardons Three in 1997 Rape/Slaying


Gov. Kaine pardons three members of the Norfolk Four

Gov. Kaine’s statement


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