Sunday, January 16, 2011

My letter to Governor McDonnell regarding the Norfolk Four

Below is my letter to Governor McDonnell regarding the Norfolk Four who were convicted of raping and murdering a woman based on coerced confessions despite physical evidence to the contrary.  Of course, my opinion matters little.  I ask that you consider the opinion of the Society of Former Special Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation where they state
From our review of the facts of these cases, we conclude that only one person sexually assaulted and murdered the victim in this case. ... Once implicated by DNA evidence, Omar Ballard confessed to police and bragged that he committed the crime by himself.  Ballard's confession is completely consistent with the physical evidence
On the other hand, the "confessions" of the four navy men are completely inconsistent with the physical evidence and have all the hallmarks of false confessions.  
You may believe that former special agents of the FBI with a few hundred years of experience are a bunch of softies with bleeding hearts and, consequently, need more evidence that these men were unjustly convicted, eventually released after ~10 years, but still considered guilty of rape and murder by the law.  If so, I ask that you view the Frontline episode linked below and peruse some of the linked websites and documents.  

Frontline episode, "The Confessions".
Website maintained by people supporting the Norfolk Four.
Washington Post editorial following Governor Kaine releasing the men from prison without a pardon.

If you are convinced of the men's innocence, you can contact Governor McDonnell here


January 16, 2011

The Honorable Robert McDonnell
Office of the Governor

Dear Governor McDonnell,

I am writing in regards to the "Norfolk Four": Messrs. Williams, Dick, Tice, and Wilson.  Both as the governor and a former prosecutor, you are undoubtedly aware of the case and the overwhelming evidence that convinced several former Virginia Attorneys' General, US Attorneys, Federal and State Judges, and the Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI of their innocence.

There are several political reasons to deny these men a full pardon.  One, many citizens simply cannot believe that ordinary people will confess to a crime they did not commit despite the empirical evidence to the contrary.   Two, the family of the victim, Ms. Moore-Bosko, continues to believe that the four men are guilty.  Three, pardoning the men despite the efforts of former peers at the Norfolk (and now Chesapeake) Commonwealth's Attorney Office would presumably create issues among law enforcement.

Nonetheless, there is an overwhelming reason to move forward with a full pardon: Punishing innocent men undermines the principles of justice essential for a well functioning society.  Citizens need confidence in society's institutions to fully support and be wholly integrated in society.  Moving beyond the pragmatic aspect of rendering justice, there is a more fundamental notion of "right and wrong" at stake here.  Continuing to punish innocent men is simply a sin that should be corrected as swiftly as possible. 

There is little doubt that these men are innocent.  Your predecessor, Governor Kaine released the four men but fell short of releasing these men from the "rapist and murder" albatross hanging around their neck.  In short, he left the dirty work to you.  It may be the case that the politically astute choice is to let the appellate courts take the cases, hope that a technicality can be found, and their convictions overturned.  But keeping these men in this limbo is particularly cruel and unfair after so much has been taken from them.  Governor McDonnell, we need a strong person to step forward and end this travesty of justice. 

Thank you for your time and consideration.

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