Conviction in 1997 Rape-Murder Is Affirmed

By Tom Jackman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 12, 2008

On a day when four former Virginia attorneys general declared that four Norfolk sailors were innocent of rape and murder, the Virginia Supreme Court yesterday affirmed the conviction of one of the sailors and reinstated his two life sentences without parole.

The Supreme Court ruled in the case of Derek E. Tice, now 37 and one of four sailors who confessed and were convicted in the 1997 rape and slaying of Michelle Moore-Bosko in Norfolk. Although the men -- known as the "Norfolk Four" -- quickly recanted their confessions, three were found guilty and received life sentences. A fourth was convicted only of rape and was released in 2005.

After the sailors were arrested, another man admitted that he committed the crimes, and his DNA matched evidence from the scene. None of the arrested sailors, who numbered seven at one point, had DNA that matched the evidence. Although the man who admitted to the crimes was convicted, Norfolk authorities still prosecuted the four sailors.

The three who were convicted of murder convinced the Innocence Project, a group that works on behalf of inmates it believes were wrongly convicted, to take up their case. Attorneys from three prominent law firms now represent the men, handling their appeals and pressing Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) to grant clemency.

They won a victory in 2006 when a Norfolk Circuit Court judge ruled that Tice's trial attorneys had been ineffective because they had not tried to suppress Tice's confession. But the Supreme Court reversed that ruling yesterday.

The court's decision will not affect the clemency petitions for Tice, Danial Williams, Joseph Dick and Eric Wilson, supporters say.

"We were disappointed, naturally," by the ruling, said Deborah Boardman, Tice's lead counsel. But she said the legal team had not expected relief from the courts; "the only way this injustice is going to be corrected is when this governor reviews this case and grants them clemency," Boardman said.

Moore-Bosko's mother, Carol Moore of Pittsburgh, said in a statement: "Derek Tice and the Norfolk Four confessed to the rape and murder of our daughter. We are thankful that the Virginia Supreme Court did not allow Derek Tice to escape the consequences of this horrible crime based on a legal technicality. These men are guilty and we pray that our family will not have to suffer through any more appeals."

The four confessions "are really, perhaps ironically, the key evidence to demonstrate their innocence," said Richard Cullen, a former U.S. attorney and Virginia attorney general. He noted that the confessions repeatedly conflict not only with each other but with the physical evidence and with the confession of the one man who still admits to raping and stabbing Moore-Bosko.

Cullen was joined at a news conference by Anthony F. Troy, another former Virginia attorney general. Two other former attorneys general -- Andrew Miller and Stephen Rosenthal -- issued a statement calling the case a "grave miscarriage of justice."

Cullen said the separation of the defendants into individual cases prevented the courts from seeing the larger picture. He said Kaine, a lawyer, would be able to do that.

The governor has not indicated when he might decide on the clemency requests.

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