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The Norfolk Four: False confessions in Virginia?
Posted: August 20, 2007 1:52 pm
A New York Times Magazine article today investigates the case of four men convicted of a 1997 Virginia murder based almost entirely on their questionable confessions. Read background on the case and find more resources.
Read the New York Times Magazine story.
Learn more about compelling evidence of evidence and watch an online video at Norfolk4.com.
Tags: False Confessions, Norfolk Four
Why do innocent people confess?
Posted: October 5, 2007 12:05 pm
An article on Alternet.org this week considers the reasons innocent people have confessed to crimes they didn’t commit, and discovers a common refrain from exonerees who falsely confess after long police interrogations – “I just wanted to go home.”
When 16-year-old Korey Wise entered the Central Park Police Precinct at 102nd St on April 20, 1989, he didn't realize what he was walking into. It was the day after one of the most grisly crimes in official New York memory-the brutal sexual assault of a woman who would become known as the Central Park Jogger-and Wise had been asked to come in along with other black and Latino youths who had allegedly been in the park the night before. Wise was taken to the scene of the crime and shown graphic pictures of the woman's injuries, which included a fractured skull. Eventually, his visit to the police station would lead to an interrogation and, after nine hours of questioning, a videotaped confession that was confusing, convoluted, and chilling.And visit Alternet.org today to join a lively discussion on the issue of false confessions and reforms to prevent them.
Read the full story here. (Alternet.org, 10/02/07)
Read more about reforms that can prevent false confessions.
Tags: Jeff Deskovic, Christopher Ochoa, Korey Wise, False Confessions, False Confessions, Norfolk Four
New trial overruled in "Norfolk Four" case
Posted: January 11, 2008 5:35 pm
Four men who say they were wrongfully convicted of a 1997 Virginia murder were dealt a setback today when the Virginia Supreme Court reversed an earlier ruling granting one of the men, Derek Tice, a new trial. Tice, 37, had argued that he was wrongfully convicted based on a false confession that never should have been presented to the jury. Tice and three other men, Danial Williams, Joseph Dick and Eric Wilson (collectively know as the “Norfolk Four”) were convicted of the murder that another man, Omar Ballard, has admitted he committed alone. DNA evidence has since shown that Ballard is telling the truth, but Tice, Williams and Dick remain behind bars, serving life sentences.
Today’s state Supreme Court decision overrules a Norfolk judge’s ruling that Tice deserved a new trial because his confession should have been suppressed. At a news conference scheduled for this afternoon in Richmond, Virginia, four former Virginia attorneys general are expected to announce their support for the claims raised by the “Norfolk Four” defendants. The four men also have clemency petitions pending before Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine. In 2006, 11 jurors from Tice’s trial signed letters stating they now believe he is innocent.
Read the full story here. (Washington Post, 01/11/08)
Read more about the case, and about how false confessions can lead to wrongful convictions.
Tags: Norfolk Four
John Grisham Developing Screenplay on 'Norfolk Four' Case
Posted: July 9, 2009 3:46 pm
John Grisham, whose first non-fiction book “The Innocent Man” raised awareness around the world about wrongful convictions, is working on a screenplay about the cases of four men convicted of a Norfolk, Virginia, murder they say they didn’t commit. Known as the “Norfolk Four” case, it is the subject of the recent book “The Wrong Guys.” The four men say they were wrongfully convicted based on coerced false confessions.
After the four men were convicted, DNA testing matched evidence from the crime scene to a man named Omar Ballard, who was then also convicted of the crime. Although Ballard says he committed the crime alone, three of the four original defendants remain in prison serving life sentences.
Grisham, who serves on the Innocence Project Board of Directors, said he was drawn to write about the story after reading “The Wrong Guys,” by Richard Leo and Tom Wells.
"It's the most egregious case of wrongful conviction I've seen, and I travel around the country listening to stories about these cases," said Grisham, who lives outside Charlottesville. He said the prosecution "should have been a fairly clear-cut DNA case, involving a man who later pled guilty, and to this day confesses he did it and did it alone."Read more background on the Norfolk Four case.
Read the full story here. (Washington Post, 07/08/09)
Buy “The Wrong Guys” at Amazon.com (a portion of the purchase price supports the Innocence Project)
Buy “The Innocent Man” at Amazon.com (a portion of the purchase price supports the Innocence Project)
Tags: Dennis Fritz, Ron Williamson, Norfolk Four
Pardons in "Norfolk Four" Case Fall Short
Posted: August 6, 2009 5:47 pm
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."Read more about the case on the official Norfolk Four site.
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."
More on today’s announcement:
Associated Press: VA Governor Pardons Three in 1997 Rape/Slaying
Virginian-Pilot: Gov. Kaine pardons three members of the Norfolk Four
Gov. Kaine’s statement.
Tags: Norfolk Four
FBI Agents: Norfolk Four Are Innocent
Posted: August 26, 2009 6:04 pm
Earlier this month, three members of the “Norfolk Four” were freed from a Virginia prison after Gov. Tim Kaine granted them a conditional pardon based on “serious doubts” about their guilt. The fourth man was freed in 2005 and not pardoned. All four were convicted of a 1997 murder in Norfolk they say they didn’t commit. DNA testing has tied a fifth man, Omar Ballard, to the crime and he has confessed to killing the victim alone.
The pardons don’t declare the men innocent, however, and a group of FBI agents wrote in the New York Times yesterday that justice won’t be done until the men are granted full pardons.
Our comprehensive review of the Norfolk Four matter left us with no doubt that the so-called confessions given by the Norfolk Four were coerced, false confessions and as such were completely unreliable.
The governor should grant the Norfolk Four absolute pardons. It is the least that can now be done for these four men who served their nation honorably as members of the United States Navy.The New York Times wrote in an editorial on August 17, writing that “the men should not give up” because “the miscarriage of justice in this case has been diminished, but not wiped away.”
Read the FBI Agents’ letter.
Read the NY Times editorial.
Learn more about the Norfolk Four case at the defendants’ official website.
Tags: Norfolk Four
One Norfolk Defendant is Cleared
Posted: September 15, 2009 5:42 pm
One of the four men wrongfully convicted in the Norfolk Four case has finally been cleared.
Derek Tice was one of four former Navy sailors convicted of a 1997 rape and murder in Norfolk, Virginia, they say they didn’t commit. Tice and two other men were freed in August after Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine granted them a conditional pardon – the fourth defendant was freed in 2005.
Despite strong evidence indicating that the men are innocent, Kaine’s pardons were conditional and did not fully clear the Norfolk Four. Today, a federal judge threw out Tice’s conviction on the grounds that his defense attorney didn’t seek to suppress his alleged confession. The ramifications of the conditional pardon and vacated conviction are unclear at this point.
Tice's father, Larry Tice of Clayton, N.C., called (the) decision vacating his son's convictions "exceptionally good news," but said he is still not satisfied.The evidence of the men’s innocence includes DNA test results pointing to a man who says he committed the crime alone. Prosecutors alleged at trial that the four men had confessed to killing 18-year-old Michelle Moore-Mosko in Norfolk in 1997, but the details of their confessions didn’t match and the men have since said they were coerced to confess.
"What I eventually want is for all four members of The Norfolk Four to be totally exonerated," he said. "It's not just Derek. I want all four men cleared."
Read the full story. (Daily Press, 09/14/09)
Read more about the Norfolk Four case here.
Tags: Norfolk Four
Frontline: False Confessions and the Norfolk Four
Posted: November 5, 2010 3:10 pm
In the Norfolk Four case, four U.S. Navy sailors served between eight and 11 years in prison for a murder that evidence shows they didn’t commit. DNA tests have pointed to the involvement of another man, who says he committed the crime alone.
The police officer who allegedly coerced the men to confess was convicted last month of accepting bribes from criminal defendants in exchange for giving them breaks in court. http://hamptonroads.com/2010/10/cops-conviction-taints-other-cases.
The episode is producer by award-winning documentary filmmaker Ofra Bikel, who produced Frontline’s “Requiem for Frank Lee Smith,” among many others about wrongful accusation and conviction.
Read more about the Norfolk Four case.
Visit Frontline’s website to watch clips from the documentary and to find local showtimes.
Learn more about recording of interrogations, a reform shown to prevent false confessions and assist in law enforcement investigations.
Tags: False Confessions, Norfolk Four
One of the Norfolk Four Still Fighting to Clear His Name
Posted: April 2, 2013 6:00 pm
Tags: Virginia, Norfolk Four