Synopses & Reviews
A compulsively readable true-crime tale, with a damning argument about the relationship between the death penalty and false confessions, based on an Innocence Project case.
"It's time for Virginia's governor to do something about the Norfolk Four....[This is] one of the most disturbing potential miscarriages of justice the commonwealth has seen in a long time."The Washington Post, editorial, December 1, 2006
On July 8, 1997, nineteen-year-old sailor Billy Bosko returned to his home in Norfolk, Virginia, from a naval cruise to find his wife on the floor of their bedroom, raped and stabbed to death.
In this gripping story of justice gone awry, four innocent men separately confess to the heinous crime that none of them actually committed. Though the real perpetrator has since been convicted, three of the four remain in prison today, attesting to the powerful role confessionseven false onesplay in our criminal justice system, where they typically trump fact, reason, and common sense.
Writer Tom Wells and law professor Richard Leo masterfully interweave a narrative covering the unfolding of the case with an exploration of topics ranging from coercive interrogation, police perjury ("testilying"), and prosecutorial politics to the role of the death penalty in criminal law.
With a clemency campaign for the three wrongly imprisoned men still ongoing, this book presents an urgent call for justice and a convincing case for reform in the criminal justice system.
"In a case echoing John Grisham's The Innocent Man, two experts in interrogation and false confessions unfold the story of four men who, under duress by the police, all pleaded guilty to the same crime. In 1997, 19-year-old sailor Billy Bosko came home to Norfolk, Va., from a naval tour to find his wife, Michelle, viciously raped and stabbed to death. Police hastily concluded that the Boskos' neighbor, another young sailor named Danial Williams, was the murderer, and after a lengthy interrogation and being told falsely that he'd failed a polygraph test, he confessed. But with DNA evidence not supporting his guilt, police, rather than letting Williams go, looked for accomplices. Eventually three other sailors, Joseph J. Dick Jr., who boarded with Williams, and Eric Wilson and Derek Tice, faced similar treatment, and all pleaded guilty. The DNA evidence and a letter in the police's hands actually pointed to another, far more credible suspect, but police clung to their theory, and Williams plea-bargained and the others were convicted at trial. The authors passionately relate the case of the Norwalk Four as a tragic one in which facts were not allowed to interfere with a good theory, and the justice system failed to do justice." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
About the Author
Tom Wells is the author of The War Within: America's Battle over Vietnam among other books. He lives in Boulder, Colorado. An expert in false confessions, Richard A. Leo is the author of Police Interrogation and American Justice and is an associate professor of law at the University of San Francisco. He lives in San Francisco. Wells and Leo spent six years closely following the case and ultimately helped to secure legal representation for the Norfolk Four's ongoing clemency campaign.