RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Four former sailors who have long claimed that police coerced them into falsely confessing to a 1997 rape and murder have asked Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe to formally declare that they are innocent, their attorneys said Thursday.
The request for absolute pardons from the "Norfolk Four" this week comes just more than a month after a federal judge threw out the convictions of two of the men, who he said "no sane human being" could find them guilty.
The Norfolk Four were stationed at the Navy base in Norfolk, Virginia, when they were accused of the rape and murder of Michelle Moore-Bosko. Their case drew national attention when their innocence claims were backed by dozens of former FBI agents, ex-prosecutors and novelist John Grisham. DNA evidence in the case matched a fifth man, Omar Ballard, who confessed to committing the crime alone and is serving a life sentence.
All of the men are already out of prison and three of them — Derek Tice, Danial Williams and Joseph Dick — have had their convictions overturned. But a pardon from the governor is the only recourse for the fourth man, Eric Wilson, who was only convicted of the rape.
Courts have denied Wilson's attempts to have his conviction thrown out because he had already completed his 8 1/2-year prison sentence when he brought the challenge. Williams, Tice and Dick were still on parole when they had their convictions tossed.
An attorney for Wilson said he hopes McAuliffe acts reasonably quick on the petition.
"We don't think there is a need for any full blown investigation," Steve Northup said. "There's nothing else to know about this case at this point as far as these guys' innocence is concerned."
A spokesman for McAuliffe said he has received the request and will review it carefully, as he does every petition.
U.S. District Judge John A. Gibney Jr. vacated the convictions of Williams and Dick last month after declaring that the evidence "leads to one sensible conclusion: Ballard alone raped and killed Bosko."
Gibney noted that Wilson must still register as a sex offender because his conviction remains on his record, which means that he can't adopt his stepson. Gibney added that Wilson has "no remedy in court to undo this injustice."
Follow Alanna Durkin Richer on Twitter at twitter.com/aedurkinricher. Her work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/journalist/alanna-durkin-richer