An inmate who says Chicago police officers tortured him into confessing to a brutal rape can present evidence of coercion that was denied at trial, the Illinois Supreme Court decided Thursday in a ruling that could have implications for as many as 20 other inmates seeking similar appeals.
Justices ruled Stanley Wrice should be appointed counsel and that his post-conviction case should continue. Wrice, 57, is among dozens of men — almost all of them black — who have claimed since the 1970s that former Chicago police Lt. Jon Burge and his officers used torture to secure confessions in crimes ranging from armed robbery to murder.
Allegations persisted until the 1990s at police stations on the city's South and West sides.
While several of the incarcerated men with torture claims have been released, Wrice’s case could have far-reaching impact on how Illinois deals with such cases in the future. Wrice, who is serving a 100-year sentence, insists he’s innocent.
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.
An appeals court had sided with Wrice, ruling that he should be granted a new hearing on his claim that Burge’s officers used a flashlight and rubber hose to beat him in the face and groin until he confessed to a 1982 sexual assault at his home.
Prosecutors asked the state Supreme Court to overturn that ruling. The high court ruled that the appeals court skipped a procedural step in granting the evidentiary hearing but that the trial court was also wrong not to allow his post-conviction case to proceed.
Burge is serving a 4 1/2-year sentence in federal prison following his conviction last year of perjury and obstruction of justice for lying in a civil suit when he said he’d never witnessed or participated in the torture of suspects.
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