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The Wrong Guys: Murder, False Confessions, and the Norfolk Four Hardcover – September 1, 2008

16 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In a case echoing John Grisham's The Innocent Man, two experts in interrogation and false confessions unfold the story of four men who, under duress by the police, all pleaded guilty to the same crime. In 1997, 19-year-old sailor Billy Bosko came home to Norfolk, Va., from a naval tour to find his wife, Michelle, viciously raped and stabbed to death. Police hastily concluded that the Boskos' neighbor, another young sailor named Danial Williams, was the murderer, and after a lengthy interrogation and being told falsely that he'd failed a polygraph test, he confessed. But with DNA evidence not supporting his guilt, police, rather than letting Williams go, looked for accomplices. Eventually three other sailors, Joseph J. Dick Jr., who boarded with Williams, and Eric Wilson and Derek Tice, faced similar treatment, and all pleaded guilty. The DNA evidence and a letter in the police's hands actually pointed to another, far more credible suspect, but police clung to their theory, and Williams plea-bargained and the others were convicted at trial. The authors passionately relate the case of the Norwalk Four as a tragic one in which facts were not allowed to interfere with a good theory, and the justice system failed to do justice. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Writer Wells and lawyer Leo team up here to produce a harrowing examination of wrongful convictions and, especially, of false confessions. Their target is a case involving the arrest of seven men for rape and murder, and the conviction and imprisonment of four of these men (and the continuing imprisonment of three of them), even after the man they identify as the true murderer has been convicted. The crime described in chilling, Fatal Vision–like detail is the sexual assault and homicide of a young sailor’s wife in Norfolk, Virginia, in 1997. The authors do an excellent job of setting up the crime and describing the panicked points of view of those arrested and convicted. The narrative then becomes a bit too hurried, long on detail but short on explication, as the authors move into more complex terrain. This study demands and rewards close reading and should inspire outrage. --Connie Fletcher

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 342 pages
  • Publisher: New Press, The (September 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1595584013
  • ISBN-13: 978-1595584014
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,217,822 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Tom Wells is an author of three books: The War Within: America's Battle over Vietnam, Wild Man: The Life and Times of Daniel Ellsberg, and (with Richard A. Leo) The Wrong Guys: Murder, False Confessions, and the Norfolk Four. He has also contributed articles to books on the Vietnam War and the 1960s. He earned a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of California, Berkeley. He has received fellowships and grants from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Science Foundation, George Soros's Open Society Institute, the Institute for the Study of World Politics, the Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation, the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, the Lyndon Baines Johnson Foundation, the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas, Columbia University, and the University of California, Berkeley. He lives in Boulder, Colorado.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Larry A. Tice on November 18, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The Wrong Guys: Murder, False Confessions, and the Norfolk Four
Tom Wells and Richard Leo did a great job of research in order to present a horror story of injustice perpetrated on innocent men by, in my opinion, an unscrupulous police detective with a history of coercive confessions. A story of one man saying that he acted alone with DNA evidence to support this statement and the same DNA evidence that says these men known as The Norfolk Four did not commit this crime. The authorities chose to use the DNA evidense to say yes this one man did commit the crime but the same DNA evidense which has cleared numerous people across this country is considered insignificate for The Norfolk Four.
This book is a classic "What not to do" for police everywhere. This book should also serve as a wake up call for all decent people everywhere to beware and question the actions of police. Beware, you could be the next victim of police rush to judgement just so they can put someone away and close the case, totally disregarding a simple matter of truth.
How do I know? I have lived this for many years, I am the father of one of The Norfolk Four.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Karen Franklin on December 8, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Innocent people do not confess. Especially to rape and murder.

That is the belief of most people, including jurors, judges, attorneys, and even the very police detectives who induce false confessions. The Norfolk 4 case is the perfect vehicle to challenge our misguided faith. And Tom Wells and Richard Leo are the ideal storytellers: Wells, author of The War Within: America's Battle over Vietnam, followed the case for seven years; Leo is a leading expert on the social psychology of police interrogation. The book is meticulously researched, through primary source documents and dozens of interviews.

Reading like a Stephen King novel, this book provides a step-by-step deconstruction of the bizarre case of the Norfolk 4, explaining the individual, situational, and systemic factors that converge in a typical false confession case. For those who want more after reading this case study, Leo's scholarly Police Interrogation and American Justice (Harvard University Press, 2008) provides a brilliant historical analysis of the topic.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Christina Lockstein on December 16, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The Wrong Guys by Tom Wells and Richard Leo details the infamous case of the Norfolk Four. In 1997, a Navy private named Billy Bosko returned to the apartment he shared with his wife Michelle to discover her murdered body in their bedroom. He raced across the hallway of the building to a neighbor to ask him to call 911. That phone call sucked the neighbor, Danial Williams, into a nightmare that he and his family are still fighting today. The police quickly focused on Williams as a suspect, despite the fact that his wife remembered waking up in the middle of the night with him next to her as she heard raised male and female voices in the Bosko apartment. The police discounted that alibi and all other evidence proving Williams' innocence (his wife died four months later without ever being questioned) including DNA evidence that cleared him. Williams spent hours without food or sleep being interrogated by a police officer who had pre-determined Williams' guilt. Williams decided that he was never going to get out of the interrogation unless he confessed to a crime he didn't commit. When the DNA evidence cleared him, the police instead decided that he must have had a confederate and started questioning Joe Dick Jr, Williams' former roommate. Dick, who has a low IQ and is easily led, was easily convinced by the police that he had committed the crime with Williams (again, Dick had an alibi the police never checked on) and he confessed as well. When DNA evidence cleared him too, he started naming men he knew only casually as his accomplices until a total of seven men were charged with the crime. Even when the real killer confessed to the crime and was convicted (it was his DNA), the police were still convinced that the eight men killed poor Michelle together.Read more ›
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on August 14, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I had a keen interest in reading this book. I was in the Navy stationed with two of the four accused in this book--Danial Williams and Joseph Dick Jr. When I was stationed aboard the USS Saipan, we had heard a story about this on the news, but--at the time--didn't think anything of it--if they did it, they did it. Not too long ago, I heard about this again, but in a different light. I had checked out the website [....] and found that these guys were, in fact, innocent of their crimes. It's a shame that even though they were just recently pardoned by Governor Kaine of Virginia, that pardon is a conditional one in that they will still have the charges on their records and will still have to answer to a parole board. This book presents the facts in order--as confusing as this case can be--which is a difficult task. It shows facts and references to facts, interviews, and confessions. It is a really good book about this particular case. I hope and pray that the governor finally will grant a full and complete pardon--at least a conditional one will get them a much needed escape from a prison cell and with their families.
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