After 30 years in prison, charges dropped in rape case
BY BECKY SCHLIKERMAN Staff Reporter December 12, 2013 10:15AM
Updated: January 14, 2014 12:52PM
The judge said “case dismissed” and with that Stanley Wrice became, officially, a free man.
When he heard those two words on Thursday, Wrice said he thanked God.
“Just overwhelming feelings,” Wrice said.
It’s been a momentous week for Wrice, who was released from prison Wednesday following a judge’s decision to overturn his 1980s conviction for rape. He’d been in prison for 31 years after he said he was forced to confess to a brutal 1982 gang rape after being tortured by detectives working under now-disgraced Chicago police Cmdr. Jon Burge.
“It’s over,” the 59-year-old said.
Minutes before, Wrice was inside Cook County Judge Richard Walsh’s courtroom, where a special prosecutor dropped the charges against him in a hearing that was over in the blink of an eye.
Assistant special prosecutor Rafael Bombino told the judge that because witnesses were not available, cooperative or had recanted, “The state does not believe it can meet its burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.”
At the end of the hearing, Wrice let out a huge sigh of relief and shook hands with the two special prosecutors.
When he walked out of the courtroom, people outside — many waiting to have their own cases heard — applauded.
Jennifer Bonjean, one of Wrice’s lawyers, praised the decision.
“This is the official end of this travesty of justice, but it’s also the beginning of his life,” she said.
Earlier this week Walsh overturned Wrice’s conviction and granted him a new trial for the rape. He had been sentenced to 100 years in prison.
Wrice, this week, testified 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.
On Wednesday, Wrice was released from the Pontiac Correctional Center.
He said he spent the night with family, playing indoor basketball with his six grandchildren.
Wrice’s lawyers said they now will pursue a certificate of innocence, which means Wrice could be entitled to nearly $200,000 in compensation, said David Protess, the president of the Chicago Innocence Project. A lawsuit is also likely, the lawyers said.
As for Wrice, he starts work as an outreach program director at Chicago Innocence Project on Monday.