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Thompson, Stevenson seek hearing on police torture claims

Updated: November 16, 2011 1:24AM

Former Gov. Jim Thompson, former U.S. Sen. Adlai Stevenson III and other legal and political heavyweights are asking the Illinois Supreme Court to order hearings into claims by prisoners that they were tortured by former Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge and his detectives.

Burge is serving a four-year federal prison sentence for perjury in connection with allegations that he presided over torture of criminal suspects from the 1970s to the early 1990s.

The request for hearings into the torture claims is expected to be filed today as part of a “friend-of-the-court” brief on behalf of inmate Stanley Wrice.

Wrice, who was convicted of rape, seeks to have his conviction reversed, claiming two detectives working for Burge beat a false confession out of him. The state appeals court has granted Wrice a hearing into his claims, but prosecutors have appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court. Prosecutors have argued against a hearing, saying there was enough evidence to convict Wrice even without a confession.

Thompson and the others who signed the friend-of-the-court brief said: “none of us expresses a view of guilt or innocence of Stanley Wrice or the other men Burge allegedly tortured who remain in prison.”

But they added that the “body politic is poisoned when claims of systematic police abuse and torture are dismissed as ‘harmless.’ ”

The brief seeks a Cook County Circuit Court hearing on Wrice’s claims. It also asks for a special prosecutor to identify other prisoners who say they confessed under torture and launch court hearings on those cases, too. The brief identifies 14 other prisoners who say their confessions were coerced through torture.

Other signers of the brief include former U.S. attorneys Dan Webb and Thomas Sullivan; Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin; Ald. Michele Smith and former aldermen William Singer, Dick Simpson and Ed Smith; and George Leighton, a former U.S. district judge and state appeals court judge.

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