CHICAGO (CBS) — The Illinois Supreme Court will hear arguments Thursday regarding a convicted rapist’s effort to get a new trial, based on an alleged tortured confession.
As WBBM Newsradio’s Mike Krauser reports, it could be a test case for many others.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Mike Krauser reports
Stanley Wrice has been in prison for 30 years. He was sentenced to serve 100 years for a rape that occurred in his own bedroom in 1982.
But Wrice has long claimed he only confessed after he was in the face and groin with a flashlight and rubber hose by detectives working for infamous police Cmdr. Jon Burge.
Burge was convicted of perjury last year for lying about torturing prisoners into making confessions. He was sentenced in January to 4 1/2 years in prison, and reported to a federal penitentiary in Raleigh, N.C., in March.
Prosecutors say the alleged torture in the case is the legal equivalent of “harmless error,” and Wrice would have been convicted anyway.
But Wrice was not identified by the victim, and one of two witnesses recanted, also alleging torture.
The state Supreme Court has ruled the use of a coerced confession as evidence of guilt is never a harmless error.
The case is being watched closely by others who claim they were tortured into admitting to crimes they did not commit.
Experts say the Supreme Court could use the case to create a roadmap for the future of similar cases alleging confessions were coerced. The court could order that all inmates with credible torture claims get new hearings, as defense attorneys have asked in an amicus brief. Or justices could allow the cases to work their way through the courts one-by-one on their merits, as prosecutors want.
The Wrice case is an opportunity for the court “to clarify the situation and create a road map for these victims to have their cases heard in a meaningful way, up or down, and move toward putting this all behind us,” said Locke Bowman, legal director of the MacArthur Justice Center at Northwestern University, who represents several alleged torture victims.
It is not clear whether the court will address the wider issue.
(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS Radio and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)