The Wrong Guys

Last week the Foundation read about some exciting news. Subjects of an Overbrook-funded book “The Wrong Guys” (a book about false confessions which was published by The New Press, a not-for-profit publishing house with titles on education, cultural, ethnic and community subjects) were pardoned by Virginia Governor Tim Kaine and released from jail!

Joseph Dick Jr., Derek Tice and Danial Williams were convicted in 1997 in the rape and murder of a woman in Norfolk, Virginia, but another man later confessed to committing the crimes. The three, along with another sailor were known as “The Norfolk Four”.What was particularly exciting, along with the vindication for the subjects of the book, is that it was possible to trace from the pardon back to the book which is a kind of influence that's usually very tricky to determine.

A couple of weeks ago, well-known author John Grisham, who had read and wrote a blurb about the book, announced that he is planning to write a screenplay based on the case. The book has been featured numerous times on television and in magazines. Grisham said last week in a phone interview that a magazine article first piqued his interest, and the authors of "The Wrong Guys" sent him an advance copy, seeking a quote for the book jacket. What intrigued him in the book was the exploration of the phenomenon of false confessions, and the convicted sailors explained how they were persuaded to confess to rape and murder.

Last week when the pardon was announced, the victim's family (who is not happy about the pardons) "blamed" Grisham's announcement for bringing attention to the case and influencing the governor's decision. As the Virginian-Pilot reported:The case has become a cause celebre in circles. It inspired a book, "The Wrong Guys: Murder, False Confessions and the Norfolk Four." Best-selling author John Grisham recently said he was writing a screenplay on the case. The Moores say they believe politics played a role in the governor's decision. "We do not believe it is a coincidence that Governor Kaine granted these pardons just a few weeks after the announcement that John Grisham intends to write a screenplay.”

The New Press is now working with local bookstores and newspapers to try to sell some copies, but luckily the book has managed to have an impact quite apart from any sales that may be realized.