Illinois Court Allows Torture Case to Proceed

The ruling could affect up to 20 other inmates seeking appeals

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Ruling could affect up to 20 other inmates seeking appeals.

    The Illinois Supreme Court ruled Thursday morning granted a time in court for a man who says his confession to a brutal rape was coerced by former Chicago Police commander John Burge.

    Stanley Wrice, 57, will now get a new hearing on whether he can introduce evidence of that torture. Wrice could eventually get a new trial.

    The decision paves the way for 14 other Burge-related cases to win new trials.

    "Use of a defendant's physically coerced confession as substantive evidence of his guilt is never harmless error," wrote Justice Mary Jane Theis in her opinion.

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    Federal Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer last month ruled former mayor could be listed as a defendant in a civil suit.

    “This is very important,” said Locke Bowman, director of the Macarthur Justice Center at Northwestern University, “because it means the court is saying that the use of physical coercion to obtain a statement from a suspect is never OK”

    Prosecutors had tried to block the case from continuing, arguing that they had enough evidence to convict Wrice even without the confession.

    Allegations of abuse and torture have plagued the police department in the nation's third-largest city for decades and were a factor in former Gov. George Ryan's decision to institute a moratorium on the death penalty in 2000. Gov. Pat Quinn abolished the death penalty in Illinois last year.

    Wrice said officers working for convicted police Lt. Jon Burge used a flashlight and rubber hose to beat him in the face and groin until he confessed to a 1982 sexual assault that he didn't commit.

    He was convicted in 1983 and is serving a 100-year sentence.

    David Protess, of the Chicago Innocence Project, calls the decision a landmark. His students helped track down witnesses who recanted their earlier statements.

    "This gives hope to all of the wrongly accused," he said.

    Burge is serving a 4 1/2-year sentence for perjury and obstruction of justice.