Man freed following wrongful conviction
By Cynthia Grau
Posted Dec. 12, 2013 @ 11:56 am
After spending more than half of his life behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit, a Chicago man was released Wednesday morning after the Illinois Supreme Court overturned his case Tuesday, citing misconduct of Chicago police officers.
Stanley Wrice, 59, came through security at Pontiac Correctional Center, carrying a large cardboard box of belongings he’s collected during his three decade-long stay, and into the arms of family and friends, who were visibly excited to see and embrace him.
“I was just thinking about coming home.” Wrice said of his last night in prison. “I got a lot of encouragement (from the other inmates) and they said stay strong and don’t come back. They said to keep God first.”
Wrice said he’s not angry at the situation, as there’s no room to be angry, and he’s just looking forward to spending time with his family, especially excited to be home for Christmas.
After sitting in prison for so many years, he says he was able to learn and grow from his experiences.
“When I gave my life to Christ, that was the right thing to do, because it was He who gave me the patience I needed to get through this,” Wrice said, adding to his plans of what lessons he can take from prison, “From here, I’m not just always going to think about doing the right thing, but think of the wisest thing to do. Wisdom is what you get from God and when you do what’s wise, how can you go wrong?”
Wrice's release from PCC came a day after Cook County Judge Richard Walsh overturned the man’s 1982 conviction, saying officers lied about how they had treated him.
The ruling 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 were accused of torturing suspects into false confessions and torturing witnesses into falsely implicating people in crimes.
Wrice has insisted for years that he confessed to the 1982 sexual assault after officers beat him in the groin and face. And a witness testified at a hearing Tuesday that he falsely implicated Wrice in the rape after two Chicago police officers under Burge's command tortured him.
He was sentenced to 100 years in prison.
Now that Walsh has ordered Wrice's release, it will be up to a special prosecutor to decide whether to retry him. The special prosecutor did not return a call seeking comment Tuesday evening.
As for the days ahead of him, Wrice says he already has a job and is looking forward to babysitting his six grandchildren, as well as working with an outreach program, hoping to rehabilitate inmates and help them resume life in society.
“Also, I can someday come back here and work with prison ministry,” he said of coming back to Pontiac.
Surrounded by his attorneys, Heidi Linn Lambros and Jennifer Bonjean, as well as David Protess, president of the Chicago Innocence Project, the group continued to talk about forthcoming plans.
Lambros and Bonjean said that they are exploring the option to bring claims against the city of Chicago, but at this time, they are letting Wrice enjoy this time and savor the win.
Protess answered questions very directly about how Wrice could possibly be righted for this wrong against him.
“I hope the amount (of money for retribution) is astronomical and I only wish that didn’t come from the taxpayers, rather out of the pockets of Jon Burge and the two detectives that tortured him and so many other innocent black men in prison,” Protess said.
He continued, saying that he is hoping Wrice will become an outreach coordinator for his organization and help him identify more innocence cases.
“It’s his way of giving back,” Protess said, which Wrice very quickly agreed.
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. Dozens of men — almost all of them black — have claimed that, starting in the 1970s, Burge and his officers beat or shocked them into confessing to crimes ranging from armed robbery to murder.
Wrice will be seen in court again today, and he and his attorneys know he may possibly be retried, but hope that it’s all over, saying the accuser never even identified him during his original trial.
Protess himself has high hopes for Wrice with his release.
“(He was in) four years longer than Nelson Mandela and he came out with about the same thing and made a difference in the world and that’s what Stanley Wrice is going to do,” Protess claimed.
No Chicago police officers have ever been convicted of torturing suspects, but Burge was convicted in 2010 for lying in a civil suit when he said he'd never witnessed or participated in the torture of suspects. He is serving a 4 1/2-year sentence in federal prison for perjury and obstruction of justice. Chicago also has paid out millions of dollars to settle lawsuits in cases related to Burge.
The torture allegations also were a factor in former Illinois Gov. George Ryan's decision to institute a moratorium on the death penalty in 2000. Gov. Pat Quinn abolished the death penalty in 2011.
UPDATE: Stanley Wrice will not be retried.
||Truth in Justice