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Chicago City Wire

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Chicago FOP looking for its own exoneration in federal wrongful conviction trial


By W.J. Kennedy | Mar 9, 2020

Chicago police suv

The Chicago Police union is closely following a civil trial in federal court brought by a Chicago man, Stanley Wrice, who spent 31 years in prison for his alleged part in a rape and torture.

Wrice was released in 2013 after it was revealed that he had been tortured into confessing to the rape and that a witness, who claimed to have been tortured by police as well, also recanted their testimony. However, a judge in 2014 indicated there was evidence Wrice had committed the crime.  

The trial before Judge Harry Leinenweber of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois entered its second week on Monday.

The Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 7, had urged the city not to settle the Wrice wrongful conviction suit as it has dozens of other past cases. The FOP wants the details of the case, and additional incriminating testimony against Wrice brought out during depositions, to air publicly in court.

One strike against Wrice, cited by the FOP, is the fact that in 2014 a judge denied his petition for a Certificate of Innocence (COI). Wrice's claim of innocence is central to the trial Judge Leinenweber said on Thursday, the first day of the trial, according to a Sun-Times report.

In the FOP blog, The Watch, union spokesman Martin Preib cited a Chicago Tribune recount of the rejection of the COI by Judge Thomas Byrne. Preib wrote that Judge Byrne believed that Wrice took part in the crime.

 “In a 44-page ruling,” the Tribune story said, “Judge Thomas Byrne concluded that what he called strong circumstantial evidence, eyewitness testimony and physical evidence recovered at the crime scene all ‘powerfully’ pointed to the guilt of Stanley Wrice in the 1982 rape.”

Then in late January, Judge Leinenweber ruled that the supervisory role of former commander Jon Burge, who spent four years in prison over a conviction related to charges of torture of suspects, was irrelevant in the civil trial. Burge died in 2018.

Besides Burge, the Wrice lawsuit names former officers John Byrne and Peter Dignan. Both were supervised by Burge.

“Wrice claims that two Chicago police officers, John Byrne and Peter Dignan, personally tortured him and the witness who implicated Wrice," Leinenweber wrote. "Byrne and Dignan allegedly did this ‘acting under the direct supervision’ of Burge.”

But the judge ruled that Wrice “has not presented evidence that Burge worked the day of his interrogation, that some unique circumstances of the case meant that Burge would be particularly likely to keep close tabs, or anything else beyond general pattern and practice evidence. For this reason, Wrice’s supervisory liability claim cannot survive.”

Finally, the FOP reported that during the discovery phase of the lawsuit, a woman testified that when she was 14, Wrice beat and raped her. She claimed to have been impregnated three times by Wrice.

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