The city of Norfolk has agreed to pay $4.9 million to four former sailors who were wrongly convicted of a woman's rape and murder based on intimidating police interrogations. A copy of the settlement agreement for the "Norfolk Four" was obtained by the AP. The state also has agreed to pay $3.5 million. The payments close out a decades-long case that drew widespread attention as the men's innocence claims were backed by dozens of former FBI agents, ex-prosecutors, and crime novelist John Grisham. "These guys can now put all this behind them and try to recoup their lives," said Tony Troy, a lawyer who represented one of the sailors. The men—Eric Wilson, Danial Williams, Joseph Dick, and Derek Tice—were pardoned by then-Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe last year of the 1997 rape and murder of Michelle Moore-Bosko.
Moore-Bosko's husband found her stabbed and strangled body in their apartment in July of that year after returning from a week at sea. Williams, who lived in the same building, was quickly identified as a suspect because a neighbor told police he had a crush on the victim. Williams admitted to her rape and murder—the first of a series of confessions, which conflicted with each other, that the men, then-sailors at the Naval base in Norfolk, say were forced by police. DNA evidence matched only one person: Omar Ballard, the fifth man convicted in the case. Ballard, who pleaded guilty in 2000, acknowledged he was solely responsible and is serving a life sentence. Ballard's account was the only one containing information matching the crime scene. In vacating some of the Norfolk Four's convictions, a federal judge once declared that "no sane human being" could find them guilty. (Much more on the case here.)