By Madeline Farber
March 22, 2017

Nearly two decades after being wrongfully convicted of rape and murder, four Navy veterans — commonly known as the Norfolk Four — have been pardoned, according to reports.

The four were formally pardoned Tuesday by Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, the Washington Post reports. The decision comes after an investigation determined that the men falsely admitted their involvement of the rape and murder of the 18-year-old Michelle Moore-Bosko. Despite the fact another man admitted to the crime, and his DNA matched that at the crime scene, the four were still coerced to confess, the Post reports. The Norfolk police detective that led the investigation is now in jail for lying to the F.B.I and extortion, according to the New York Times, though this is unrelated to the Norfolk Four case.

“These pardons close the final chapter on a grave injustice that has plagued these four men for nearly 20 years,” Brian Coy, a spokesman for Gov. Terry McAuliffe, told the Times.

Although three of the four men—Danial J. Williams, Joseph Dick Jr. and Derek Tice — were granted pardons by Gov. Tim Kaine in 2009, and were released from prison, their convictions remained. According to the Times, the fourth man, Eric Wilson, has already been released — he was convicted only of rape, not murder. His conviction was not overturned because he had already completed it.

But despite the initial pardons, the sailors wanted full pardons — including no longer being permanently classified as sex offenders. After a judge ruled last year that the men were actually innocent, McAuliffe granted them full pardons this week.

“While former Governor Kaine had initially granted conditional pardons in the case, more exculpatory information discovered since then and detailed by [U.S. District] Judge John Gibney during exhaustive evidentiary proceedings indicate that absolute pardons are appropriate,” Coy told the Post.

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