On October 31, 2016, Judge John Gibney of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia vacated the convictions of two members of the Norfolk Four, Joseph Dick and Danial Williams, after finding them innocent of the rape and murder of Michelle Moore-Bosko in a September 26, 2016 Opinion, which stated: “By any measure, the evidence shows the defendants’ innocence – by a preponderance of the evidence, by clear and convincing evidence, by evidence beyond a reasonable doubt, or even by conclusive evidence.” The September 26th Opinion can be accessed here; the October 31st Order can be accessed here; and the October 31st statement from the attorneys for Mr. Dick and Mr. Williams can be accessed here.
On September 14, 2009, Judge Richard L. Williams of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia granted Derek Tice’s federal habeas petition and overturned Mr. Tice’s conviction. In the opinion, Judge Williams finds that the state trial court’s grant of Mr. Tice’s habeas petition based on the violation of his constitutional rights was correct, and that the Virginia Supreme Court’s reversal of that decision was an “objectively unreasonable” application of federal law. Click here to read the opinion in its entirety.
On August 6, 2009, three of the Norfolk Four received conditional pardons from Governor Tim Kaine. Derek Tice, Danial Williams, and Joseph Dick, Jr. have been released from prison and rejoined their families after more than 11 harsh years in prison. Please click here for the Norfolk Four press release.
JOSEPH JESSE DICK, JR.
Born in Maryland on July 31, 1976 to Joseph Dick, Senior and Patricia (Bankard) Dick, Joe was only 21 years old when he was subjected to Detective Ford’s intense interrogation. Joe had an unblemished criminal record, and his parents had sheltered Joe from negative influences. He had no experience with law enforcement, but he did have an absolute respect for authority figures and a strong fear of conflict.
Joe’s Character and Background
Joe’s childhood and adolescence were shaped by two essential traits. First, although he was not specifically diagnosed, Joe struggled with learning and developmental disabilities that hampered his intellectual and social development. Furthermore, these disabilities, along with his last name, marked Joe as different from other children, leaving him to endure frequent taunting. Second, in spite of these limitations, Joe remained a tremendously caring person, always seeking to lend a helping hand to anyone who needed him. These two essential traits were evident in all of Joe’s activities and social relations – in school, in church, in the Boy Scouts, in his social and familial relationships, and in the Navy.
Joe’s substantial difficulties in learning may stem from a childhood accident. When he was three years old, Joe was knocked unconscious when he was hit in the head by a swing. When he regained consciousness, he was permitted to nap. Shortly thereafter, Joe’s parents were concerned about his development, and brought him for an evaluation at the Kennedy Krieger Institute for children with developmental disabilities. However, they did not purse the recommended testing that might have revealed the source of Joe’s limitations.
Joe’s parents, and his mother especially, tried extremely hard to help Joe succeed in school, but he was unable to overcome his mental limitations. Several of Joe’s family members suspected that Joe suffered from a learning disability, but felt it was not proper for them to intrude into such private matters. Joe’s parents also imposed strict discipline in their home, and taught Joe an absolute respect for authority. Joe greatly admired, but also greatly feared his father, an imposing figure who has made his career in the military. Joe understood that he would suffer negative consequences were he to express anger or frustration towards his father or other authority figures, and thus, he learned never to do so.
During his elementary and high school years, Joe lagged behind his peers socially and academically, but he never was a behavioral problem for his teachers. Joe attended a vocational high school where he worked hard at his major, Machine Shop, but his mental limitations remained apparent. Throughout high school, he enjoyed activities that are common among much younger children, such as playing with simple lego toys and G.I. Joe figurines. Socially, Joe was stigmatized because of his differences and his last name. Nevertheless, Joe never became angry or lashed out at any other individual. Indeed, he continued to eschew violence even in high school, where fights occurred more frequently than they had in Joe’s Catholic elementary school.
His commitment to helping others continued to flourish. Joe volunteered with the church, mowing the lawn and serving as an altar boy, and in the Boy Scouts, putting forth the considerable effort required to earn the Ad Altare Dei award. Yet, for the simplest of tasks, Joe needed explicit instructions and even then, his inability to understand his own limitations caused him difficulties. Moreover, Joe was easily manipulated and misled.
Although some doubted that he would be admitted into the military, Joe remained resolute in pursuing his goal of serving his country. Although he failed each of the required basic training tests on his first attempts, he managed to pass the second time, and reported to duty on the USS SAIPAN in early 1996. In the Navy, Joe’s intellectual limitations continued to hamper his success, but his commitment and the strong efforts he put forth allowed him to receive acceptable scores on his evaluation reports. Joe was proud of his service, but he remained immature and naive. Relatives remember that conversations with Joe, even after several years in the Navy, were like conversations with a twelve-year-old, and his direct supervisor in the Navy recalls that Joe needed special guidance.
Joe’s False Confession
At the time of Michelle’s murder, Joe, a roommate of Danial and Nicole Williams, was on duty on board his naval vessel. Shortly after being questioned about Ms. Bosko’s death by a Naval Criminal Investigative Service (“NCIS”) agent and by a civilian detective and prosecutor, Joe, confused and intimidated, met with his supervisor, Petty Officer Ziegler, to confirm that he had been on the ship that night. Although the Navy had discarded the paperwork detailing duty assignments, as the crime had occurred six months earlier, Ziegler retraced the duty assignments of Joe’s unit and confirmed that Joe had been assigned to duty on the ship during the night/morning of the crime. He also recalled that he had ordered Joe to sleep on the ship during his scheduled duty time. Had Joe missed his duty assignment, Navy protocol required that Ziegler be notified, and he was not.
Despite Joe’s actual innocence and an airtight alibi, Detectives Ford and Wray demanded that Joe “confess” his guilt. Detectives lied to Joe, telling him for example that his alibi did not check out, but they in fact did nothing to confirm his whereabouts. They threatened him with physical violence and with the death penalty.
After seven hours of coercive interrogation, Joe (submissive and easily misled even under normal circumstances), capitulated to Ford’s demands and implicated himself in Michelle’s murder. Joe’s statement was riddled with inconsistencies and sharply diverged from the actual crime scene evidence, and, like Danial Williams, Derek Tice, and Eric Wilson, his DNA did not match the evidence found at the crime scene. Despite the abundant evidence of Joe’s innocence, Detective Ford and prosecutors Bowen and Hansen proceeded to pressure Joe into a guilty plea, under which he received two life sentences for a crime he did not commit. Furthermore, they insisted that Joe’s plea bargain would be withdrawn, and the death penalty imposed, unless he agreed to testify against the other innocent men who had falsely confessed. Without a strong authority figure, such as a parent or lawyer, to support him when he explained his innocence, Joe was incapable of withstanding these threats.
- Joseph Jesse Dick, Jr.
- Joseph Dick Sr.
- Patricia Dick
- Michele Campbell
- Theresa Bankard Sharpe
- Al Bankard
- Tom Bankard
- Elizabeth Penn
- Sister Francesca
- Denise O’Connor
- Father Michael Orchik
- Karen Jamison
- Richard Jamison
- Joseph Adams
- M.D. Ziegler
- Dr. Richard Ratner
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