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South Side man leaves prison after conviction is overturned

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Updated: January 14, 2014 12:17PM

Stanley Wrice noticed two things late Wednesday morning after he was released from the Pontiac Correctional Center after three decades behind bars.

“The size of the cars, I can’t believe how small they got, and everyone has these phones,” the 59-year-old Wrice said as his lawyers laughed during the car ride back to Chicago.

A day before, Wrice was sent into giddy daze when Cook County Judge Richard Walsh overturned his conviction and granted him a new trial for a brutal 1982 gang rape.

“I was relieved. I was happy that it happened. I feel good, really good right now,” said Wrice, who said he was forced to confess to the South Side crime after he was tortured by a pair of detectives working under now-disgraced Area 2 Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge.

Wrice testified earlier this week that then-Detective John Byrne whacked him with a flashlight while Byrne’s partner Peter Dignan beat him with a 20-inch piece of rubber.

Both Byrne and Dignan invoked the Fifth Amendment at Wrice’s evidentiary hearing.

Wrice, who was sentenced to 100 years in prison, said he was bitter and angry during the first 20 years of his incarceration. But he said his strong faith helped him keep hope that someone would take his claims seriously.

“I believe God was listening, that’s what I kept in my mind and heart,” he said.

Seeing Byrne and Dignan in court after 31 years wasn’t too difficult, Wrice said.

“It felt good to look at them in the face and know they couldn’t beat me. They couldn’t get their hands on me,” he said.

Wrice’s case is back up before Walsh on Thursday.

Wrice’s attorneys weren’t sure if assistant special prosecutors will pursue another trial against Wrice, but they noted that the rape victim, who never identified Wrice, and two of his co-defendants have since died.

Meanwhile, Wrice looked forward to a home-cooked dinner by one of his sisters. Reconnecting with family, which includes 10 siblings, three daughters and a son, is a priority, Wrice said Wednesday.

Wrice said he will also keep busy with his new job as an outreach program director for David Protess at the Chicago Innocence Project.

Wrice isn’t sure what the job entails.

But he has plenty of time to learn.

In the meantime, Wrice’s mouth watered thinking about the meal from Hackney’s he planned to eat at a celebration party at his attorney Heidi Linn Lambros’ house.

“I just want my cheeseburger,” Wrice said.


Twitter: @rummanahussain

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