The arrest, trial and conviction of four sailors accused in the 1997 rape and murder of another sailor’s teenage wife.
Wells (The War Within, 1994, etc.) and Leo (Law/Univ. of San Francisco; Police Interrogation and American Justice, 2008, etc.) spent six years following the case and eventually helped secure high-powered legal representation to assist the appeals of the Norfolk Four: Danial Williams, Joseph Dick, Derek Tice and Eric Wilson. They argue that the men were accused on the flimsiest of evidence and then bullied by police interrogators into giving false confessions. (All four waived their Miranda rights during questioning.) The fact that the suspects reaffirmed their participation in the brutal crime during subsequent questioning and court proceedings doesn’t help the authors’ argument, but the fact is that no physical evidence linked them to the crime. Moreover, another more likely suspect, whose DNA was the only match recovered from the scene, later confessed to killing 18-year-old Michelle Bosko alone. Readers may balk at the lengthy police interrogations detailed here, as well as the ever-changing accounts of the crime provided by the various suspects. The authors’ impressive research too often bogs down in textbook legalese and repetitious crime details, and their involvement in the case may actually have hindered them from providing a more clear-eyed, entertaining narrative. Still, their assertion that Norfolk, Va., detectives were more interested in clearing the case than in actually solving it seems well founded. Indeed, searching desperately for a match to the lone DNA sample found at the crime scene, the police eventually charged a total of seven suspects with the killing before being forced to release three of them. Wilson, convicted only of rape, was released in 2005. Williams, Dick and Tice remain in prison serving life sentences. Whether it was guilt or näiveté that put them there is for the reader to decide.
Heavy going at times, but nonetheless an eye-opening indictment of a myopic criminal-justice system.