Friday, January 11, 2008
Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) is being asked to pardon four former sailors (Derek E. Tice, Joseph Dick, Danial Williams and Eric Wilson) who were convicted in the 1997 rape and murder of an 18-year old Norfolk woman. It is argued that there is overwhelming evidence to suggest that a fifth man (Omar Ballard, also convicted for rape and murder) acted alone. It is also argued that investigators probably elicited a false confession then used it to set off a "domino effect" leading to additional confessions. Ballard has confessed that he alone committed the crime and, as it turns out, only his DNA was found at the crime scene. Former Attorney Virginia General Richard Cullen says he is "convinced that today there are three men serving terms of life in prison for a crime they simply didn't commit." Former Virginia Attorney General Anthony F. Troy, and E. Tazewell Ellett, past president of the Virginia Bar Association, also support the sailors. All four petitioned the governor for clemency 26 months ago but a spokesman says he is unable to say when the governor might make a decision, and that the governor never comments on clemency petitions. Story here and here.