We’ll find impartial judge in convicted rapist’s case, chief judge says
BY FRANK MAIN Staff Reporter September 27, 2013 12:40PM
Updated: October 29, 2013 6:06AM
Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans refused Friday to transfer a convicted rapist’s post-conviction appeal to another county over concerns that judges here might have potential conflicts of interest because former Mayor Richard M. Daley and an Illinois appellate judge are on the witness list.
Evans said he will instead take steps to ensure that any judge who hears Stanley Wrice’s case will not have worked for Daley when he was the Cook County state’s attorney or worked with the other witness, Bertina Lampkin, when she was a prosecutor and a criminal court judge.
“We want to make certain the public has the some confidence in the administration of justice here,” Evans said, adding: “I feel we can find a judge who can be impartial.”
Last month, Judge Evelyn Clay recused herself from Wrice’s case, saying she has a potential conflict of interest that she could not disclose. She would only reveal that “this court knows some of the parties involved.”
But Wrice’s attorneys said the only logical inference they could draw was that Daley and Lampkin posed potential conflicts of interest for Clay as witnesses.
Daley was the Cook County state’s attorney when Wrice was convicted in 1983. Lampkin was a prosecutor on the case. Lampkin later served as a judge in the Cook County Criminal Court building with Clay.
Clay had previously ruled in Wrice’s favor, ordering a Sept. 23 evidentiary hearing after finding he “successfully established a substantial showing of actual innocence.”
Daley and Lampkin were then subpoenaed in July to testify at the hearing for Wrice, who is seeking a new trial. But the hearing was postponed when Clay stepped down from the case, which she had presided over since 2007.
Wrice, 59, claims police tortured him into giving a false confession to a 1982 gang rape. He says detectives working for disgraced Cmdr. Jon Burge carried out the interrogation. Burge is now in federal prison for perjury in connection with his testimony in a civil case involving allegations that he and colleagues tortured suspects.
Wrice’s bid to overturn his 100-year sentence received a boost from Northwestern University students working with David Protess of the Chicago Innocence Project. The students obtained a sworn statement from witness Bobby Joe Williams, who recanted his trial testimony that Wrice was involved in the 1982 rape.
On Friday, Jennifer Bonjean, a Brooklyn attorney representing Wrice, urged Evans to change the venue of her client’s hearing to another county — where the judges would not have a potential conflict over relationships with Daley and Lampkin.
“Justice delayed is justice denied,” she said, adding: “prison is not a fun place for someone who is [almost] 60.”
But Assistant Cook County Special Prosecutor Brian Stefanich objected, saying: “Judges in this building can be fair and impartial.”
Evans forged a compromise, excluding judges who were once employed by the Cook County state’s attorney’s office between 1974 and 1989 — the periods when Daley and Lampkin had worked there. He also excluded judges who served in the criminal division of the Cook County court system between 1989 and 2009, when Lampkin was a criminal court judge there. Finally, he excluded judges with fewer than five years’ experience.
Evans ordered the Cook County clerk of court to select a new judge randomly from the remaining pool of judges by Oct. 3.