CHICAGO (CBS) — Prosecutors on Thursday said they will not retry a rape case against a man who spent 30 years behind bars after he was tortured into confessing to the crime.
The case was officially dismissed at a court hearing Thursday morning after Stanley Wrice walked out of a central Illinois prison on Wednesday.
Wrice, 59, was released from Pontiac Correctional Center late Wednesday morning, a day after a Cook County judge overturned his conviction, saying two former detectives lied about how they treated Wrice while interrogating him in 1982.
“It’s just an overwhelming feeling of joy, happiness that finally it’s over with,” Wrice said after walking into the arms of his two daughters, attorneys, and others who greeted him as he left prison.
On Tuesday, Judge Richard Walsh stopped short of finding Wrice innocent, but ordered him released from prison, awaiting a decision from a special prosecutor on whether to retry him.
Wrice has long maintained police officers under the command of disgraced Cmdr. Jon Burge beat him in the groin and face, until he confessed to a 1982 gang rape. A witness against him also has recanted, testifying he implicated Wrice after he also was tortured.
Wrice was sentenced to 100 years in prison after he was convicted, and had been in prison for 30 years.
His attorney, Jennifer Bonjean, said it’s a case of justice long delayed, but not denied. After years of the case making its way through the Illinois Appellate and Supreme Courts, it took only eight ours over two days in a Cook County courtroom to convince Judge Richard Walsh that Wrice was telling the truth about being tortured.
The two former detectives he’d accused of torturing him – John Byrne and Peter Dignan – had asserted their Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination when called to testify. Walsh said there’s no doubt police were torturing suspects at Area 2 in the 1980s, noted medical evidence showed Wrice was injured, and said his torture claims were “unrebutted.”
No Chicago police officers ever have been convicted of torturing suspects, but Burge was convicted of perjury for lying in a civil suit when he said he’d never seen or participated in the torture of criminal suspects at Area 2.
Burge is serving a 4 1/2-year sentence in federal prison, and the city has paid out more than $83 million in settlements to people who have claimed they were tortured by Burge and his detectives.