July 5, 2011

Three of 'Norfolk Four' appeal to Va. high court

7-5-2011 Virginia:

Three men convicted for the rape of a Navy wife more than a decade ago have appealed to the Virginia Supreme Court for exoneration.

The three former Navy sailors could have hearings from a three-judge panel as early as this summer, according to lawyers involved in the case.

A Norfolk judge rejected appeals from Danial Williams, Joseph Dick and Eric C. Wilson in February, saying their petitions came too late to be considered. The men want the case reopened because of misconduct by a former Norfolk police detective.

Williams, Dick and another sailor, Derek Tice, were convicted in the 1997 rape and murder of Navy wife Michelle Moore-Bosko, 18, in her Ocean View apartment. Wilson was convicted only of rape. A fifth man, Omar Ballard, confessed to committing the crime alone and is serving a life term in prison.

Although the men confessed to the crimes, they have been trying to clear their names almost since their convictions. Former Gov. Timothy M. Kaine granted partial pardons to three of the men known as the Norfolk Four in 2009, and they have been released from prison.

Stephen Northup, a Richmond-based attorney representing Wilson, said successful appeals would free the men from the legal restrictions of being registered sex offenders and allow them to live productive lives. "These guys are innocent," said Northup, one of a team of attorneys representing the men. "We all believe that very fervently."

Moore-Bosko's family has strongly opposed the appeals. A spokesman for the state attorney general's office declined to comment because the cases remain active.

The appeals are based on misconduct by former Norfolk police detective Robert Glenn Ford discovered during his federal trial for corruption. Ford, a lead investigator in Moore-Bosko's murder, was convicted of corruption charges and sentenced to 12-1/2 years in prison. The conviction was unrelated to the Moore-Bosko investigation.

Norfolk Circuit Chief Judge Everett Martin found the petitions did not include substantial new evidence and rejected the appeals. Martin wrote that the decision was not a ruling on the men's guilt or innocence but rather on the timeliness of their petition.

The issues will be addressed by a three-judge panel of the Virginia Supreme Court. A date has not been set for the hearings, which could be scheduled for the summer or fall.

Williams and Dick also have federal appeals pending, while Wilson's appeal was denied by the same court. A federal court in April granted Tice's petition to clear his criminal record. ..Source.. by Louis Hansen, The Virginian-Pilot

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