Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Clayton man receives conditional pardon in rape-murder

A Clayton resident who has spent the last 12 years in a Virginia state prison for a murder many crime experts say he did not commit will be coming home this week – a free man but not an exonerated one.

Derek Elliott Tice was one of three former U.S. Navy sailors who were given conditional pardons last Thursday by Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine for the July 8, 1997, rape and murder of 18-year-old Michelle Moore-Bosko in her apartment in Norfolk.

Tice, along with Danial J. Williams, Joseph Jesse Dick Jr. and Eric Cameron Wilson, were the foursome collectively known as the “Norfolk Four,” accused of assaulting and killing Moore-Bosko, the wife of Navy Seaman William Bosko, in a case that has attracted national headlines and the intervention of lawyers representing The Innocence Project, which assists prisoners who could be proven innocent through DNA testing.

In granting Tice, Williams and Dick conditional pardons, Kaine, in a press conference called to announce the pardons, said, “There are many, many aspects of this case that are troubling. And I would say that these individuals have raised serious doubts about their involvement, or about the level of their involvement, but I do not believe that they have conclusively demonstrated that there is no possibility that they were involved in this crime.”

A conditional pardon made Tice, Williams and Dick eligible for immediate release from serving consecutive life terms but did not overturn their convictions. All three will be on supervised probation for at least 10 years and must register as convicted sex offenders for the remainder of their lives.

Wilson, who served an 8½-year sentence after being convicted of raping Moore-Bosko, was released in 2005. Kaine denied his request for clemency.

Both the attorneys and families of the accused men, while lauding their release, said Kaine’s action did not go far enough.

“We are overjoyed that we have a chance to get our sons back, but this is bittersweet,” Rachel Tice, Derek’s mother, told The Associated Press on Thursday. “This has been an 11-year-plus ordeal for our families. Our sons, who are innocent, lost more than a decade of their lives and their convictions still hang over their heads.”

Attorney Des Hogan, who represented Tice in his efforts to receive clemency, said, “After nearly four years of review, Gov. Kaine has finally allowed our clients to return to their families. But this grave miscarriage of justice will not fully end until the Commonwealth of Virginia officially recognizes that all four men are innocent, and their good names have been cleared.”

The victim’s parents, John and Carol Moore of Pittsburgh, Pa., decried Kaine’s action as being politically motivated by his relationship with author John Grisham, a major contributor to Kaine’s campaign and Democratic candidates for office in Virginia, who is writing a screenplay about the case. Grisham, author of such bestsellers as “The Pelican Brief” and “The Firm,” is also a board member of The Innocence Project.

“It is truly shameful and a disservice to the citizens of Virginia and our family, that the decisions of the courts have been ignored, and confessed rapists and murderers are being set free,” the Moore’s said in an e-mail released Thursday to the media. “Obviously. Mr. Grisham’s wealth and influence are far more important to Gov. Kaine’s political aspirations and public image than truth or justice.”

Tice, 39, the younger of two sons of Rachel and Larry Tice, joined the Navy after graduating from Clayton High School in 1990. He played with the Comets Marching Band during his years at CHS and also volunteered many hours with the Clayton Area Rescue squad, earning a reputation as a compassionate, caring employee who was extremely respectful of his superiors. Tice was 27 years old and stationed in Norfolk, undergoing training to become a Navy nurse, when Moore-Bosko was murdered.

Tice was arrested in June 1998 in Florida – almost a full year after the murder – after being implicated by Dick, who later claimed he was coerced by police into naming accomplices to the crime when DNA found at the scene did not match any of the suspects then in custody.

By the time of Tice’s arrest, police had already charged Williams, Dick and Wilson despite finding no physical evidence at the crime scene tying the three (or, as it turned out, Tice) to the murder and conflicting statements in the original three suspects’ confessions, which they later claimed were the product of aggressive interrogation by Norfolk detectives.

Tice, whose own confession included statements that did not match evidence found at the crime scene, later told attorneys he was subjected to more than 10 hours of interrogation and threatened repeatedly with the death penalty. He finally confessed to avoid what he said he feared was certain death if he did not, even though he insisted he was not involved and had no knowledge of the crime whatsoever.

Tice later recanted his confession in a trial and subsequent retrial (he was the only one of the four to have a trial) but was convicted of rape and capital murder and sentenced to consecutive life terms at Sussex Prison 1 in Waverly, Va.

A fifth suspect, Omar Ballard, was convicted in 1999 of Moore-Bosko’s rape and murder when his fingerprints and DNA were matched with those found at the crime scene. Ballard also confessed, in both a letter written to a friend from jail in which he bragged about the crime, and later under direct questioning by authorities, saying he acted alone and did not even know the other four individuals convicted in the case.

But that was after the four had signed the confessions implicating themselves – and after, as lawyers for the defendants later argued, Ballard was ordered by prosecutors to not testify at Tice’s second trial or face repeal of his plea bargain of a life sentence in place of the death penalty for the murder.

Since 2005, representatives of The Innocence Project, along with a group that has included former state attorneys general of Virginia, 31 former FBI investigators who independently reviewed the case and two members of the jury that convicted Tice, have lobbied for the “Norfolk Four’s” release.

A spokesperson representing Tice’s attorneys said Tice and his parents, who live on Vinson Court off of Barber Mill Road southeast of Clayton, are hoping to pick up the pieces of their lives when they return home to North Carolina.


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