Three Men to Seek Clemency in '97 Rape and Slaying in Norfolk

By Tom Jackman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 10, 2005

Police were convinced that Michelle Moore-Bosko, a young Navy wife, was raped and murdered by eight men in her small Norfolk apartment in 1997 while her husband was away at sea. And five of them confessed.

But Bosko's apartment showed no signs of mass attack, and the DNA left behind matched only one man: Omar A. Ballard, a convicted sex offender, who gave details of the killing and said he acted alone.

The four others who confessed, all Navy sailors, later recanted but were convicted anyway, and three of them are serving life sentences. Today, three of "the Norfolk Four," as their attorneys call them, plan to ask outgoing Gov. Mark R. Warner (D) for clemency. The fourth sailor's request is pending.

"Four innocent servicemen are languishing in prison for no reason, other than expediency," said Richard J. Ofshe, a California sociologist and expert in false confessions. "If they were being held by a foreign government, we would send in the Army to get them out."

Michelle Moore-Bosko's family was not pleased by news of the case's resurrection.

"There's no way that they're innocent," said Carol Moore of Pittsburgh, Bosko's mother, who sat through three murder trials and numerous hearings. "No way." She said the tapes of the confessions were played in court. "If you hear the confessions, they're almost exactly the same," Moore said. "They say what they did to my daughter."

Lawyers agreed to represent three of the men for free after learning of the case from the Innocence Project, which champions the cases of inmates it believes were wrongly convicted.

In addition to Ofshe, the lawyers also asked a veteran medical examiner and an experienced criminal profiler -- both frequent prosecution witnesses -- to examine the evidence and the sailors' statements.

"They didn't do it," said Larry McCann, a former special agent for the Virginia State Police. "Their statements are not consistent with the physical evidence, the victim's wounds or the behavioral evidence."

Werner Spitz, a longtime medical examiner from Michigan, looked at the 18-year-old woman's stab wounds and said they were "all in the same direction, same location, similar depth. To say that eight people, or five people, or even two people to have done that, it's like a snowball in hell for everybody to follow the exact same parameter."

The four men -- Danial J. Williams, Joseph J. Dick Jr., Derek E. Tice and Eric C. Wilson -- confessed to Norfolk homicide detective Glen Ford and now say that Ford pressured them with threats of the death penalty during long interrogations.

During Tice's murder trial in 2003, Ford acknowledged that he obtained false confessions from three Norfolk teenagers in a 1990 robbery-murder. The judge did not allow the jury to hear that testimony, and Tice was convicted of first-degree murder and rape.

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