Criminal Justice

Wrongful Conviction? Norfolk n' Way

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More than two-dozen retired FBI agents are asking Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine to pardon and release the "Norfolk four," four Navy sailors convicted of a 1997 rape and murder.

The evidence of the sailors' innocence is pretty overwhelming. It includes the confession of a man who had ties to the victim, had a history of sexual abuse against women, and who was a match to DNA from the crime scene. None of the four sailors' DNA matched that taken from the crime scene, nor did any other physical evidence.

So why were they convicted? False confessions. Prosecutors initially planned to try seven sailors, but ended up trying only four when the other three wouldn't confess. One of the convicted served his sentence and has been released. The other three are serving life sentences. The cops apparently pulled a confession out of one sailor, then used that false confession and the threat of the death penalty to get false, conflicting confessions from three others.

People still seem to have a hard time believing that false confessions happen. If the cops in this case could elicit four of them from four enlisted Navy men, it shouldn't be hard to imagine how they could get one from, say, a 13-year-old kid, or someone with a mental disability. The case is also another argument for videotaping police interrogations.

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  1. Ms. Moore-Bosko’s mother, Carol Moore of Pittsburgh, could not be reached for comment.

    But in a statement in January, she said: “Derek Tice and the Norfolk Four confessed to the rape and murder of our daughter. These men are guilty and we pray that our family will not have to suffer through any more appeals.”

    With all due respect for your loss, Mrs. Moore, please fuck off and die. Thank you and good night.

  2. From the article:

    “The former agents join a long list of unusual supporters, including four former Virginia attorneys general; 12 former state and federal judges and prosecutors; and a past president of the Virginia Bar Association, who have called for the men to be pardoned.

    “In January 2006, 13 jurors from two of the sailors’ trials signed letters and affidavits saying they now believed the men were innocent.”

  3. During the voir dire for jury duty on which I sat once, the opposing lawyers were asking various questions of us prospective jurors. We were of course explained the procedures to expect, drilled in the relevant rules of evidence, instructed in our obligation to presume the defendant’s innocence, etc. Everyone nodded compliantly to each component of the process.

    Just before we were to be released for a break, one of the lawyers asked whether we had any questions.

    One woman, who had not been called on yet, burst out, utterly sincerely and urgent with suppressed indignation, “What I wanna know is, why he done it?”

  4. I think it is great to see all of these unusual people speaking out against this clearly wrongful conviction. I wish the best of luck to these four navy men and I hope they get acquitted. However this just leaves me asking the question, if they weren’t in the navy, would these people be speaking out? Even in Radley’s article he points out two other instances of this happening and these same people aren’t coming to their defense.

  5. The case is also another argument for videotaping police interrogations.

    All interrogations. Not just the last one where the lied to, emotionally beaten down prisoner confesses. From the time of arrest to the time of trial, every damned converstaion between cops and the the suspect should be recorded if feasible. Not convenient, feasible. Any interrogations conducted without videotaping should be prosecuted as a felony. Destroying, or concealing videotaped interrogations should also be a felony that includes lifetime prohibition from serving in any law enforcement capacity, or in the case of D.A.s, disbarment.

    I’m getting really tired of this shit.

  6. if they weren’t in the navy, would these people be speaking out?

    Were they firefighters, policemen, or Indians?

  7. “Derek Tice and the Norfolk Four confessed to the rape and murder of our daughter. These men are guilty and we pray that our family will not have to suffer through any more appeals.”

    It’s sad when people are out for blood rather than interested in justice.

  8. That should be “pardon, release, and make restitution to”, shouldn’t it?

    And is anyone asking for the firing, arrest, and prosecution of the cops and prosecutors who did this? No?

    Well, you get more of what you reward, and less of what you punish. They were rewarded for closing this case and getting a conviction, so unless they are punished now, you can expect to see more of the same.

  9. The case is also another argument for videotaping police interrogations.

    All interrogations. Not just the last one where the lied to, emotionally beaten down prisoner confesses. From the time of arrest to the time of trial, every damned converstaion between cops and the the suspect should be recorded if feasible. Not convenient, feasible. Any interrogations conducted without videotaping should be prosecuted as a felony. Destroying, or concealing videotaped interrogations should also be a felony that includes lifetime prohibition from serving in any law enforcement capacity, or in the case of D.A.s, disbarment.

    I completely agree. Just to add my own personal experience with this here, about 6 months ago I was pulled over, I had an ounce of weed on me. The cop when he came to my window told me something that could be construed as coercion.(He told me if I just told him I had weed on me he would let me go home.) A few minutes later when I asked the cop if the dashboard cam was running he responded with (and I shit you not) “No, we usually never run the cameras because it puts the police in the spotlight. The truth is we usually always make a mistake and if we filmed everything the suspects would almost always get off.” I couldn’t believe my ears….

  10. And is anyone asking for the firing, arrest, and prosecution of the cops and prosecutors who did this? No?

    Well now that you mention it, I’ll hop up on that wagon.

  11. Videotaping confessions won’t stop this. The problem is that it is okay for cops to lie to subjects to get a confession. Videotaping is just as likly to make things worse than better. Regardless of how it is obtained, the tape of they guy saying he did something is more powerful in court than a signed statement. If it really is a case where the cop writes the statement and the guy signs it, then yes video taping will help. But that is not usually how it works. It works by the cops lying to the guy and making him feel like he has no choice but to confess and then breaking down and confessing. That can make the confession even more powerful even though it is false.

    Not that interrogations shouldn’t be videotaped. They should be. But, these cases need to also stop cops from being able to lie to subjects in hopes of getting confessions. That is what produces the false confessions and the root of the problem.

  12. Gotta love plea bargins. “Oh you can have your day in court. But if you do and you lose, we will screw you.”

  13. I am the mother of a murder victim. The police jumped to the conclusion that she had been murdered by her boyfriend. When that theory didn’t pan out, they focused on her ex-boyfriend.

    They have no proof, no fingerprints, no DNA, no witnesses, no nothing. Just their ignorant gut feeling.

    They refuse to thoroughly investigate, so sure are they with their “formula”‘ thinking, i.e., it’s always the boyfriend, husband, etc.

    I truly believe that neither her boyfriend nor her ex-boyfriend are responsible for her murder. Here I am in the awful position of having to defend them, and fight for them.

    Because of her murder I have become very interested in true crime shows and websites like wwww.websleuths.com where the truth comes out. Believe me, there are some terrible injustices being committed by law enforcement all over this country. The worst is when the DAs (Nifong) refuse to admit their mistakes.

  14. Videotaping confessions won’t stop this. The problem is that it is okay for cops to lie to subjects to get a confession. Videotaping is just as likly to make things worse than better. Regardless of how it is obtained, the tape of they guy saying he did something is more powerful in court than a signed statement.

    Horsefeathers (bullshit if you prefer). If videotaping the entire interrogation process resulted in more convictions with greater senetences, incompetent DAs and fucking cops too lazy to do a real investigation would be all for it.

    They aren’t.

  15. I can’t help but think that this case might have some relevance for terrorism trials with evidence obtained from people who have been held in solitary confinement with little sleep, subject to all sorts of threats.

  16. I am going through this on a drug charge. It is like going through the looking glass.

  17. “Horsefeathers (bullshit if you prefer). If videotaping the entire interrogation process resulted in more convictions with greater senetences, incompetent DAs and fucking cops too lazy to do a real investigation would be all for it.”

    You would think that, but you have obviously never delt with cops. You can’t convince them that a videotape is gold in court. They are basically so sleazy and shiftless that they cannot support videotaping anything they do as a matter of principle. It is not a rational choice on their part.

  18. When the police fear the most is always accountability.

  19. When [What?] the police fear the most is always accountability.

    Ka ching! Give that man a kewpie doll.

    But, but, but, if the public saw haw we do business they wouldn’t understand what it’s really like, how difficult it is, to protect society. It’s better if they don’t see the reality of our methods. They just wouldn’t understand.

  20. Stupid fingers. I hate when I distractedly type.

  21. It is not a rational choice on their part.

    It is a perfectly rational choice if they believe that the tape will show all kinds of unprofessional/illegal behavior by cops.

    Why would they believe that, I wonder?

  22. Anon,
    I am truly, truly sorry for your loss.
    I cannot begin to imagine how difficult this must be for you.

  23. But RC Dean, that’s not illegal or unprofessional. It just LOOKS that way to us untrained, inexperienced ordinary yokels! We don’t know just how tough it is to get these horrible criminals off the streets, to put our lives on the line, EVERY DAY, just so the rest of us ungrateful citizen nothings can walk around safe!

  24. “””And is anyone asking for the firing, arrest, and prosecution of the cops and prosecutors who did this? No?””””

    devil’s advocate.

    What did they do wrong? It is legal for LEOs to lie to you during questioning. So they lied to these guys, big deal, they are allowed to. You can’t punish people for doing things that are legal. It’s not a question of right or wrong but legal or not.

    /devil’s advocate

    I think anytime you build a system that allows dishonesty at any point, it’s poisoned.

    This is another example of why “I want my lawyer” is the only thing you should say, and assume everytime LEOs move their lips, they are lying.

  25. Taping only works if the cops preserve the tape. I saw an interview with a cop where he said it’s standard procedure in his department to tape suspect interviews, transcribe the interview, *then destroy the tape*. That has the obvious benefit that if the transcription contains errors or deliberate falsehoods it cannot be challenged by the suspect should it be entered into evidence or used as the basis for a warrant.

  26. Taping only works if the cops preserve the tape. I saw an interview with a cop where he said it’s standard procedure in his department to tape suspect interviews, transcribe the interview, *then destroy the tape*.

    I’d expect, then, that criminal attorneys would be pushing for legislation to require that the tape be preserved until the final disposition of a case (i.e., appeals process ended). How many states require taping interrogations in the first place? It’s hard to believe that existing laws requiring taping routinely overlook something as obvious as “losing” the tape.

    What state and/or city was your cop source working in?

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