Sailors Freed After Wrongful Conviction and Lengthy Legal Battle

On August 7, 2009, Danial Williams, one of the "Norfolk Four," was granted conditional parole by Virginia Governor Tim Kaine and was released from prison, where he had been serving two life sentences for a 1997 rape and murder he did not commit. A Skadden team has been representing Williams pro bono since 2004, together with teams at Holland & Knight and Hogan & Hartson who are representing two other individuals in the Norfolk Four who also received life sentences. (The fourth sailor was convicted only of rape and spent more than eight years in prison.) Despite evidence that the Norfolk Four's confessions were coerced, that their interrogator had previously been demoted for securing false confessions, that none of the sailors had prior criminal records, that none of the confessions matched the others or the physical evidence at the crime scene, and that another man with a criminal record of violence against women had confessed to the crime separately and had DNA matching that left at the scene, the sailors were prosecuted and convicted. After a long legal battle and a strong outcry for reconsideration of the case, Gov. Kaine gave the three men convicted of murder conditional pardons — which frees them from prison — though their convictions were not lifted. The representation continues in an effort to completely exonerate all of the Norfolk Four.