Last month, we had occasion to mention the fact that
John Grisham is writing a screenplay about the so-called Norfolk Four, four sailors who claim to have been wrongly convicted in the rape and murder of a Norfolk woman in 1997. The men confessed to the crime, but following their guilty verdicts, recanted, claiming they had been coerced. Another suspect was identified and it was his DNA that matched the crime scene, not the sailors’. He, too, confessed and claimed to have acted alone. However, the Four’s convictions continue to stand.
Today, however, Virginia governor Tim Kaine stepped in. From the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot:
Kaine said in a news conference that he has granted pardons to three sailors, still in prison, who were convicted of rape and murder. Kaine declined to pardon another former sailor, Eric Wilson, who was convicted of rape only and was released from prison in 2006 after serving more than eight years.
The conditional pardons mean that Derek Tice, Danial Williams and Joseph Dick Jr. will spend no more time in prison. They each were sentenced to life for the crime. Kaine said he decided there were “grave doubts about at least the level of their complicity in the crime.”
The parents of the victim, according to the paper, are “devastated.” They also said that they “do not believe it is a coincidence that Governor Kaine granted these pardons just a few weeks after the announcement that John Grisham intends to write a screenplay about this case. Stories about rapists and murderers who confess, then spend the rest of their lives in prison, do not make interesting movies.”