Clemency Campaign Renews Misery

By Tom Jackman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 15, 2008

PITTSBURGH -- Carol and John Moore listened in a Norfolk courtroom when one of the sailors who raped and killed their daughter explained, in chilling detail, how they did it. The Moores steeled themselves at another hearing when a sailor looked directly at them and apologized for his part in the group slaying.

"I know I shouldn't have done it," Joseph Dick Jr. told the Moores before he was sentenced to life in prison without parole. "I have got no idea what went through my mind that night."

In all, five men were convicted in the 1997 slaying of 18-year-old Michelle "Shelly" Moore-Bosko. But two years after the trials and hearings finally ended, three high-powered law firms enlisted by the Innocence Project informed the Moores that they would be fighting for pardons for four of the men, who have become a national cause celebre known as the "Norfolk 4."

Recently, 30 retired FBI agents added their voices to a growing chorus declaring the Norfolk 4 innocent and asking Virginia's governor to grant them pardons. Four former attorneys general from Virginia have weighed in. And a book, "The Wrong Guys," has just been published about them.

In their first in-depth interview, the Moores said they are incredulous at the campaign for clemency that they have watched play out from their modest brick home in the Brookline neighborhood here. Having sat through all the court hearings and listened to all the testimony about the July 8, 1997, rape and stabbing, they are absolutely convinced the sailors were responsible.

"I can't see how anyone is confessing to this, of all things, murder, unless they did it . . . ," said Carol Moore, 53, a homemaker. "I would get up and scream, 'I didn't do it!' " she added during the couple's first interview since the murder 11 years ago.

The phenomenon of false confessions is at the heart of the petitions filed on behalf of Dick, now 32, Danial Williams, 36, Eric Wilson, 31, and Derek Tice, 38, the former sailors who make up the Norfolk 4. They contend that their confessions were coerced by homicide detectives, even though two of the four pleaded guilty and one of them repeatedly testified in court to how the attack happened.

Williams, Dick and Tice are serving life sentences without parole. Wilson was convicted of rape but not murder and has served his 7 1/2 -year sentence.

Another convicted man, Omar Ballard, also confessed to the rape and slaying and insisted he acted alone. Only his DNA was found at the crime scene.

Convinced that Ballard was the lone killer, attorneys for the sailors filed detailed petitions for clemency with then-Gov. Mark R. Warner (D) in November 2005 and continue to push for pardons from Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D).

Kaine, who declined a request for an interview, has not ruled on the clemency petition and has not set a timetable for doing so, a spokeswoman said. But when asked about the case on WTOP radio last month, Kaine said: "They're asking for a whole series of confessions . . . to all be discarded. That is a huge request."

Kaine said the 30 retired FBI agents "had not talked to the prosecutors and investigators. So they've kind of looked at it with their own expertise, but kind of from one side," the Virginian-Pilot reported. "I am obligated to look at it from all sides. And I am. And will only make a decision when I feel like the matter is completely clear for a decision."

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2008 The Washington Post Company