By Christopher Zoukis
Four former U.S. Navy veterans wrongly convicted of the rape and murder of an 18-year-old woman have been granted full pardons by Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe.
Eric Wilson, Danial Williams, Derek Tice and Joseph Dick, Jr., known as the “Norfolk Four,” were arrested for raping and killing Michelle Moore-Bosko in 1997. Based almost entirely on false confessions, Williams, Tice and Dick were convicted of both crimes and sentenced to life in prison. Wilson, convicted of rape, received eight-and-a-half years.
After an investigation revealed that the confessions were coerced by detective Glenn Ford – who is serving 12 years in prison for lying to the FBI in unrelated cases – and that another man had confessed to the crime, Virginia authorities took another look at the Norfolk Four.
Concluding that crime scene and forensic evidence overwhelmingly pointed to the guilt of Omar Ballard, the suspect who had confessed, then-Governor Tim Kaine conditionally pardoned Williams, Tice and Dick after they had served 11 years. Wilson, who had already been released, was not pardoned at that time.
The failure to pardon Wilson meant that he remained a registered sex offender despite having been wrongfully convicted. As a result he was blacklisted from his son’s Boy Scout meetings and barred from all school functions without an escort.
“My wife, I made her stop reading comments on the Internet because she was getting death threats for being with a sex offender,” Wilson said.
Governor McAuliffe’s full pardons, issued on March 21, 2017, will help resolve such problems; a federal district court had previously vacated Dick’s and Williams’ convictions.
“These pardons close the final chapter on a grave injustice that has plagued these four men for nearly 20 years,” McAuliffe said in a statement.
Wilson declared that he was “over the moon” about receiving the pardon, but would like to see reforms made to the sex offender registry.
“The registry essentially says that you haven’t paid for this crime, you can never pay for this crime and will for the rest of your life,” he stated.
Meanwhile, Ballard is now serving a life sentence for the crimes that sent the Norfolk Four to prison.
Sources: www.cnn.com, www.usnews.com
This article originally appeared in Prison Legal News on October 10, 2017.
About Christopher Zoukis
Christopher Zoukis is an outspoken prisoner rights and correctional education advocate who is incarcerated at FCI Petersburg Medium in Virginia. He is an award-winning writer whose work has been published widely in major publications such as The Huffington Post, Prison Legal News, New York Daily News and various other print and online publications. Learn more about Christopher Zoukis at christopherzoukis.com and prisoneducation.com.