Four sailors wrongfully convicted of and imprisoned for rape and murder will receive compensation from both the Commonwealth of Virginia and the City of Norfolk.
A state lawmaker who sponsored the legislation says it’s the first time in Virginia where someone will be compensated for both their time behind bars and the time afterward when they were required to be on the sex offender registry.
“This was such an egregious act, unfathomable in my mind,” said Del. Chris Jones, (R) Suffolk, calling it the worst miscarriage of justice he has ever seen.
The case involved the July, 1997 rape and murder of Michelle Moore Bosko in her Norfolk apartment.
Sailors Danial Williams, Joseph Dick, and Derek Tice were convicted of rape and murder. Eric Wilson was convicted of rape.
Their DNA didn’t match the evidence. Their confessions were forced. The lead detective was corrupt.
Another man eventually confessed to the rape and murder and his DNA matched the evidence from the apartment.
None of it mattered.
Three of the Norfolk four got life sentences for rape and murder, and one got eight years for rape.
“I cannot imagine being in prison for that long and then being on the sex offender list knowing that you’re innocent,” Jones said, “and they knew you were innocent within two to three years of the murder.”
Wilson spent eight years in prison, the other three more than ten each.
The compensation legislation takes into account not only their time behind bars, but also their parole and the time they had to register as sex offenders.
Their payouts will come from the state, and the city of Norfolk must match them. The combined totals range from $1.8 million for Williams to $1.7 million for Tice.
“You can never compensate someone adequately for the time that they’ve lost,” Jones said.
Lost, in large part, because of corrupt police detective Robert Glenn Ford. Documents say he forced illegal confessions from the Norfolk Four.
When Omar Ballard confessed to the rape and murder and his DNA was a match – Ford told him he could avoid the death penalty by implicating the innocent sailors.
Ford was convicted of perjury and taking bribes and is now in federal prison.
The payouts for the Norfolk Four will begin in about 90 days. They will each get an initial payout of about $170,000, with the rest coming over time as an annuity.
Governor Terry McAuliffe gave the Norfolk Four absolute pardons a year ago. Their records are erased and they’re no longer on the sex offender registry.
The legislation requiring the compensation recognizes their “horrific experiences in prison, lost employment opportunities, and shattered relations with family and friends.”
Jones said the efforts of several people and agencies were instrumental in getting the legislation passed, including Norfolk Mayor Kenny Alexander, the office of Attorney General Mark Herring, the Innocence Project, and the law firms of Eckert Seamans, Troutman Sanders, Squire Paton & Boggs, Hogan Lovells and Skadden Arps who served pro bono.