“This case—and the frequency of false confessions in criminal cases—shows that common sense reforms like the videotaping of interrogations are needed to protect the innocent and our communities.” – Shawn Ambrust, MAIP Executive Director
Derek Tice, Danial Williams, Joseph Dick, Jr., and Eric Wilson, collectively known as “The Norfolk Four,” were wrongfully convicted of a 1997 rape and murder based on false confessions. Each was subjected to high-pressure interrogation tactics, including threats of death penalty and questionable use of lie detector tests. The details of the confessions did not match the crime scene, the other confessions, or the confession of the real killer.
All of the DNA and forensic evidence in this case pointed to one man, Omar Ballard, and only his confession matched the physical evidence. Ballard is currently serving a life sentence and has sworn under oath that he committed the crime alone.
In 2009, three of the four men were freed from prison after Gov. Tim Kaine granted them conditional pardons, still requiring them to register as sex offenders and felons; Eric Wilson had already served out his sentence. Only one of the four men, Derek Tice, has been fully exonerated for the crime.
Because false confessions are such a common cause of wrongful convictions, MAIP advocates for reforms that can reduce the risk of such confessions. These reforms include legislation mandating the electronic recording of interrogations and training for police officers on proper interrogation tactics.
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