Cook County Record

Saturday, August 17, 2019

City faces wrongful conviction suit stemming from alleged police torture under Burge

By Andrew Thomason | Aug 8, 2014

A man who spent more than 30 years behind bars for a crime he claims he didn't commit is back in court, but this time as the plaintiff.

Stanley Wrice was convicted in 1982 of a brutal rape and sentenced to 100 years in prison. He maintained his innocence throughout the trial, saying his conviction was based on a confession that was beaten out of him by two Chicago police officers.

He is one of many men who claim that Chicago police, under the watch of former Commander Jon Burge at Area 2, tortured them into confessing to crimes they didn’t commit. No police officer has been convicted of torture or assault relating to those complaints, but the city has paid out millions to handle civil cases.

Wrice was freed from jail in 2013 after the Illinois Supreme Court ordered the lower court to have a hearing on his torture claim, the circuit judge threw out his conviction and prosecutors dropped the charges.

On Aug. 4, Wrice filed a suit in Chicago’s federal court against Burge and several former police officials and employees including, John Byrne, Peter Dignan, Terry Hillard, Thomas Needham and the Estate of Leroy Martin.

His suit also names the city, the county, the prosecutor's office, former Mayor Richard M. Daley and former Cook County Assistant State's Attorney Bertina Lampkin, now a justice on the First District Appellate Court.

The matter stems from the 1982 rape of a 33-year-old woman, who according to the suit, was sexually assaulted and burned over a two hour period in the attic of a home Wrice shared his brother, sister and sister's boyfriend.

Wrice and several other black men were arrested for the assault and interrogated by defendants Byrne and Dignan. Wrice maintained that he was home when the crime happened, but he did not know about it.

In his suit, Wrice contends Byrne and Dignan tortured him for a confession, which he asserts was the major reason for his conviction since there was no physical evidence linking him to the crime.

The complaint goes on to detail the alleged torture Wrice endured, such as having his hands handcuffed above his head while Byrne and Dignan beat his groin until his legs gave out, leaving him hanging from the handcuffs.

After that, Wrice claims he was put in a room with the two police officers, as well as then prosecutor Kenneth McCurry, and falsely confessed.

“Plaintiff was not advised his constitutional right to an attorney or to remain silent, and Plaintiff only spoke to … McCurry because he was afraid of Defendant Dignan and Defendant Byrne," the suit alleges. "Plaintiff could not remember exactly what he told McCurry because he was in so much pain from the beatings he suffered."

In a report by the paramedic who examined Wrice after the confession, the paramedic wrote “that Plaintiff had so many bruises on his upper body that he could not mark them all on the intake sheet,” according to the complaint.

Wrice's suit includes counts against the defendants for wrongful conviction, deprivation of right to fair trial, false arrest and imprisonment, torture and physical abuse, coercive interrogation and conspiracy.

It also makes a Monell claim against the city of Chicago, which allows him to sue the city for damages the same way one would sue a person, as well as accusations of several violations of state law that more or less reflect the federal claims made.

He is seeking compensatory and “substantial” punitive damages, as well as legal and attorney fees. His suit was submitted by New York attorney Jennifer Bonjean of the Brooklyn-based Bonjean Law Group LLC.

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