Virginia's governor pardoned four former sailors who became known as the "Norfolk Four," ending a decades-long fight to clear the men of rape and murder convictions based on intimidating police interrogations, the AP reports. A spokesperson for Gov. Terry McAuliffe says the governor has granted absolute pardons for the men in the 1997 rape and killing of Michelle Moore-Bosko. DNA evidence linked another man, Omar Ballard, to the crime. He said he was solely responsible and is serving a life sentence. The "Norfolk Four" case drew widespread attention when their innocence claims were backed by dozens of former FBI agents, ex-prosecutors, and crime novelist John Grisham.
One of the men, Eric Wilson, said McAuliffe has "given us our lives back with these full pardons." "We have been haunted by these wrongful convictions for 20 years, which have created profound pain, hardships, and stress for each of us and our families. We now look forward to rebuilding our reputations and our lives," Wilson said in a statement. Three of the men—Danial Williams, Joseph Dick, and Derek Tice—were granted conditional pardons in 2009 by then-Gov. Tim Kaine and released from prison because of doubts about their guilt, but their convictions remained on the books. Wilson, who was convicted only of rape, had already been released. (Read more pardon stories.)