By Bruce Fischer
Michelle Moore-Bosko was raped and murdered in 1997 in Norfolk, Virginia. Michelle was the wife of William Bosko of the United States Navy.
Five men were convicted of the crime. Four of these men, Derek Tice, Danial Williams, Joseph J. Dick Jr., and Eric C. Wilson, were wrongly convicted. Tice, Williams, and Dick were convicted of murder and were sentenced to life in prison without parole. Wilson was convicted of rape and served 8 1⁄ years in prison. All four men were serving in the U.S. Navy at the time of their arrests. These men have become known as the Norfolk Four.
Omar Ballard was the fifth man convicted. All evidence suggests that he is solely responsible for this crime. He is the only man whose DNA was found at the crime scene. Forensic evidence led to only one attacker. Ballard confessed that he committed the crime alone and that no one else was involved. He continues to stand by those statements.
The convictions of the Norfolk Four were secured using confessions made by the men. All four claim their confessions were coerced, stating they were threatened with the death penalty if they did not confess. The lead detective in charge of the interrogations had a history of extracting false confessions from suspects.
Veteran FBI agent Larry Smith reviewed the case and realized that the conviction of the Norfolk Four was a miscarriage of justice. Smith saw glaring discrepancies between the confessions and the actual evidence provided at the crime scene. In an article in Time magazine, Smith is quoted as saying:
“The confession should not be the end of the investigation; you should corroborate the facts and circumstances of the confessions with the crime scene.”
Smith along with twenty-five other former FBI agents investigated the case and concluded the evidence points directly to one man, Omar Ballard. The autopsy report suggested a single attacker, and Ballard left incriminating biological evidence at the crime scene.
Smith and the other agents took interest in the case after another former agent, Frank Stokes, determined the case was a miscarriage of justice. Stokes had asked one of the case lawyers to seek the assistance of the other agents. These agents worked together to draft a letter to be sent to Governor Kaine of Virginia.
The Innocence Project had previously sent a petition for clemency to then-governor Mark Warner. That Petition would have made its way to Kaine’s desk when he took over the office.
After reviewing the information presented to his office, Governor Timothy Kaine granted conditional pardons to Joseph J. Dick, Jr., Derek E. Tice, and Danial J. Williams. Kaine did not grant absolute pardons based on innocence. Eric C. Wilson had already served his full term for his rape conviction. His clemency request was denied by Governor Kaine. The four men are now free men but are still battling to clear their names. It is unfortunate that Governor Kaine fell short of completely correcting this injustice.
Retired Detective Robert Glenn Ford was convicted in October of 2010 on unrelated extortion charges of accepting payments from criminal suspects in return for favorable treatment. Ford is a perfect example of a bad seed. It is people like Ford that must be stopped. Ford should have been reassigned or fired for past wrongdoing long before he had the opportunity to interrogate the Norfolk Four. Some positions of power should not come with second chances.
The Norfolk Four will never truly be free until they are fully exonerated. This must be done promptly so these men can move on with their lives.
I commend the efforts of the retired FBI agents that worked to correct this injustice. Veteran FBI agent Steve Moore was involved in a very similar effort to correct the injustice committed against Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito. It is people like Larry Smith, Frank Stokes, and Steve Moore that truly make the world a better place.
The Norfolk Four Documentary: A Miscarriage Of Justice (four parts)
PBS Frontline Documentary: The Confessions
Officer’s Extortion Conviction Prompts Calls for Full Exoneration of ‘Norfolk Four’
Amanda Knox Case and The Norfolk Four Highlight Irreparable Damage Caused By Wrongful Convictions