innocence blog

A Web log for the Innocence Institute of Point Park University

Friday, December 01, 2006

Conviction Overturned in 1997 Rape & Slaying

This article appeared in the Washington Post on December 1, 2006:

Conviction Overturned In 1997 Rape, Slaying
Judge Cites Failure to Contest Confession

By Tom Jackman
Washington Post Staff Writer

A Norfolk judge has ruled that a sailor convicted in a 1997 rape and murder should be retried or released because his attorney did not attempt to have the sailor's confession thrown out.

Derek E. Tice, 36, is one of the convicted "Norfolk 4" sailors, who have launched a campaign to establish their innocence in the attack on Navy wife Michelle Moore-Bosko. Three of the four -- Tice, Danial Williams, 34, and Joseph Dick, 30 -- received life sentences for murder. Williams and Dick pleaded guilty. A fourth sailor, Eric Wilson, 29, was acquitted of murder but convicted of rape, served eight years, and has been released.

At one point, Norfolk authorities charged seven sailors in Moore-Bosko's rape and death, which occurred July 8, 1997, while her husband was at sea. But the defendants' DNA did not match DNA from the scene; their statements contained inaccuracies; and the Norfolk apartment yielded no evidence of a gang rape.

Then, an eighth man, Omar Ballard, confessed and said he had acted alone. And his DNA did match. Prosecutors dismissed charges against three of the sailors and went to trial against Tice and Wilson.

Last year, lawyers agreed to take on the cases of Tice, Williams and Dick at the request of the Innocence Project, which works on behalf of inmates the group believes were wrongly convicted. The group filed clemency petitions with the governor late last year, contending in part that the men were coerced into falsely confessing. The petitions are pending.

But Deborah L. Boardman, a Washington attorney for Tice, also filed a civil habeas corpus suit alleging that Tice was being illegally imprisoned. In particular, she asked how Norfolk homicide detectives obtained Tice's incriminating statement and whether Tice's attorney did enough to suppress it. Such suits rarely succeed.

After being warned against self-incrimination, Tice agreed to talk to two detectives. Then he was turned over to another detective, Randy Crank. According to Crank's notes, Tice told Crank that he had decided "not to say any more; that he might decide to after he talks with a lawyer or spends some time alone thinking about it."

Crank did not question Tice again. But the first two detectives resumed questioning, and Crank apparently did not tell them of Tice's comment, according to Norfolk Circuit Court Judge Everett A. Martin Jr.'s ruling.

Tice's "right to silence was not scrupulously honored," Martin wrote.

Tice was represented at trial by James O. Broccoletti and Jeffrey R. Russell of Norfolk, experienced criminal defense lawyers. Broccoletti testified at a hearing in September that "there must have been some reason I didn't file" a suppression motion, but he couldn't remember why. "I find," Martin wrote, "there is a reasonable probability the jury would have acquitted [Tice] if his confession had not been admitted into evidence." He concluded that Tice's right to competent, reasonable assistance of counsel had been violated.

Tice's father, Larry Tice of Clayton, N.C., said the ruling "just does to prove what I've known for years, that these men are innocent."

Assistant Attorney General Stephen R. McCullough said the state would appeal to the state Supreme Court. If the state loses on appeal, the Norfolk commonwealth's attorney would have to decide whether to retry the case.

Moore-Bosko's parents, Carol and John Moore of Pittsburgh, said they were "profoundly disappointed" by the ruling and believe that the evidence is clear that Tice raped and murdered their daughter.


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