By Tom JackmanWashington Post Staff Writer Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Best-selling author John Grisham is joining the controversy over the "Norfolk Four" by writing a screenplay about the four sailors who claim they were wrongly convicted after confessing to the rape and murder of a woman in Virginia's second-largest city in 1997.
Grisham, 54, has written hugely popular novels such as "The Firm," "The Pelican Brief" and "The Runaway Jury," and in 2006 wrote "The Innocent Man," a nonfiction account of an Oklahoma man wrongly convicted of murder. He then joined the board of directors of the Innocence Project, which takes on the cases of prisoners believed to have been wrongly convicted, and became deeply involved in raising money and awareness for Innocence Project cases across the country.
In 2005, the Innocence Project filed clemency petitions on behalf of the Norfolk Four -- Danial Williams, Joseph Dick, Derek Tice and Eric Wilson -- who were convicted in the rape and murder of 18-year-old Michelle Moore-Bosko. Although all four confessed and either pleaded guilty or were convicted at trial, they recanted and claimed their statements were coerced by Norfolk police.
During their prosecutions, another suspect, Omar Ballard, was identified. His DNA matched that left at the murder scene.