- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 15, 2008

RICHMOND | More than two dozen former FBI agents this week urged Gov. Tim Kaine to grant clemency to four former sailors convicted in the rape and murder of a Norfolk woman in 1997.

The retired agents, who were not part of the original investigation but dug into the case recently because it caught their interest, added their voices to earlier appeals for clemency by several former Virginia attorneys general and others.

The retired FBI agents said that after reviewing the case, they determined the men were wrongly convicted after a Norfolk police detective coerced a series of false confessions in the slaying of 18-year-old Michelle Moore-Bosko, the wife of a sailor who was at sea when she was killed in her apartment.

They said Mr. Kaine, a Democrat, should grant full pardons to Derek Tice, Danial Williams, Joseph Dick Jr. and Eric Wilson, which would set them free from prison.

“It’s our unequivocal belief that these sailors were wrongly convicted,” said Jay Cochran, who was an FBI special agent for 27 years.

The ex-agents had also requested pardons from Mark Warner, a Democrat who preceded Mr. Kaine as governor.

The ex-agents’ review of the facts found that a fifth man convicted in the slaying, Omar Ballard, acted alone.

Ballard, who is serving a life sentence for the slaying, confessed to the police and repeatedly has said that he committed the crime himself. His was the only DNA found at the crime scene, and other physical evidence also linked him to the slaying, the agents said.

The agents said that their review of the case found that the four confessions were uncorroborated and failed to match with each other or with physical or DNA evidence found at the crime scene. Also troubling was investigators’ failure to substantiate the confessions, they said.

The former agents didn’t conduct their own interviews but reviewed the same evidence presented to the governor in the sailors’ clemency petitions, as well as DNA and autopsy reports, crime-scene photographs, video and diagrams and police investigators’ reports, said Donald Salzman, one of a team of attorneys from several high-profile law firms representing the men for free.

The agents acknowledged that agents standing up for the innocence of defendants is unusual but said the facts of the so-called “Norfolk Four” case prompted them to come forward.

“Governor Kaine is the only person who can assure that justice is achieved for these four innocent men,” Mr. Cochran said.

Norfolk prosecutors have defended the convictions and the victim’s mother, Carol Moore, has previously said that she remains convinced of the sailors’ guilt.

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