Conviction Overturned For Burge-Era Prisoner

Judge says officers lied about suspect's treatment while in custody

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Stanley Wrice

    A judge Tuesday overturned the conviction of a man who spent 30 years in prison for a rape he says he falsely confessed to after being tortured by police.

    Cook County Judge Richard Walsh ordered that Stanley Wrice, 59, be released from prison, saying officers lied about how they treated him. The decision was just the latest development in one of the darkest chapters of Chicago Police Department history, in which officers working under former Lt. Jon Burge have been accused of torturing suspects into false confessions and torturing witnesses into falsely implicating people in crimes.

    Wrice was sentenced to 100 years in prison for a 1982 sexual assault. For years, he insisted he confessed to the crime only after officers beat him in the groin and face.

    One of Wrice's attorney, Heidi Linn Lambros, said that when the ruling was announced, Wrice "squeezed my hand and looked at me with tears in his eyes and said he owed me a dollar," a reference to the bet she made with Wrice recently that she would have him home by Christmas.

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    The Department of Corrections says Wrice will be released from the Pontiac Correctional Center on Wednesday. It's up to a special prosecutor to decide whether to retry Wrice. The special prosecutor did not immiedately return a call seeking comment Tuesday evening.

    Walsh issued his ruling after a hearing in which a witness also testified that two Chicago police officers under Burge's command tortured him into giving false testimony during Wrice's trial.

    With his release, Wrice will join a number of men who in recent years have been released from prison because they were tortured into confessing at the hands of Burge's men. Chicago has paid out millions of dollars to settle lawsuits in cases related to Burge.

    No Chicago police officers have ever been convicted of torturing suspects, but Burge is serving time in a federal prison after being convicted of perjury in connection with testimony he gave in a civil case involving allegations of torture.

    Wrice testified at Tuesday's hearing that former officers John Byrne and Peter Dignan beat him with a flashlight and a 20-inch piece of rubber — the same weapons, Lambros said, that others have said the two used on them to get them to confess to crimes or implicate others in crimes they did not commit.

    Byrne and Dignan refused to testify, citing their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

    Lambros said that Walsh blistered the two former officers while making his ruling, saying the two had lied about the way they treated Wrice during a hearing in 1982. The judge also said the detectives under Burge's command did, in fact, torture suspects.