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After decades in prison, South Side man’s rape conviction overturned

Gail Lewis smiles her husbCashell Lewis while defense attorney Heidi Linn Lambros (left)  smiles as well after it was

Gail Lewis smiles at her husband Cashell Lewis while defense attorney Heidi Linn Lambros (left) smiles as well after it was ruled that Gail's father Stanley Wrice will be released from prison Wednesday in Pontiac. Wrice was accused of rape and has served more than 30 years in prison. | Michael R. Schmidt-For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 12, 2014 6:25AM

Gail Lewis had picked out a tux for her father to wear at her wedding last year.

She also had the perfect song for the father-daughter dance: Luther Vandross’ “Dance With My Father.”

But Stanley Wrice never walked his daughter down the aisle.

Instead, Wrice languished in prison serving a 100-year sentence for a brutal gang rape he said he was forced to confess to by abusive detectives working under the now disgraced Area 2 Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge.

On Tuesday, Wrice was finally able to hug Lewis after a Cook County judge overturned Wrice’s conviction and granted him a new trial for the 1982 crime.

Wrice smiled and softly sobbed as he hugged Lewis following Judge Richard Walsh’s ruling.

Police “lied about how they handled the defendant,” Walsh said, adding that Wrice’s claims against former detectives John Byrne and Peter Dignan were “unrebutted.”

Byrne and Dignan invoked the Fifth Amendment during Wrice’s two-day evidentiary hearing.

Still, there was no doubt cops were torturing suspects at Area 2 and medical evidence “confirms” Wrice was injured, the judge said.

Wrice, 59, is expected to be released from the Pontiac Correctional Center on Wednesday after posting a $5,000 recognizance bond.

Gail Lewis and her husband are already making plans for him to baby-sit their three children.

“I’m just happy he’s coming home. … I knew he was innocent,” Lewis said.

Lewis was only 1 year old when her father was arrested for the assault that took place in a residence at 76th and Chappel.

Bobbie Joe Williams, a witness who testified at Wrice’s 1983 trial, had since recanted his statement, saying he, too, was beaten into implicating Wrice.

Appellate Court Judge Bertina Lampkin, who tried Wrice when she was a prosecutor, testified Tuesday that Williams never told her he was physically or psychologically abused when she met with him at least twice, months after the incident

“He didn’t tell me anybody did anything to him,” Lampkin said.

After the court hearing, Chicago Innocence Project’s David Protess pointed out that the victim, who is now deceased, never identified Wrice as one of her attackers.

It is up to Special Prosecutor Stuart Nudelman as to whether he will try Wrice again.

However, Wrice’s attorneys, Jennifer Bonjean and Heidi Linn Lambros, said prosecuting their client would be tricky since of two his co-defendants are dead and all living witnesses have recanted their testimony.

In court, Bonjean lambasted Byrne and Dignan, accusing them of railroading her client due to sheer “racism and hatred.”

“They didn’t care about getting the right guy. They cared about beating a black man,” the defense attorney said.

Lambros, who has a tattoo honoring Wrice on her arm, told reporters it was unfortunate that it took over three decades to overturn Wrice’s conviction.

Bonjean agreed.

“It took too long, but I’m thrilled that we had the opportunity today to do in two days what could have been done 31 years ago,” Bonjean said.

Burge is in the midst of a 4½-year prison sentence for perjury in connection with his testimony in a civil case involving allegations that he and colleagues tortured suspects.


Twitter: @rummanahussain

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