PONTIAC, Ill. — During his more than 30 years behind bars, Stanley Wrice insisted he was innocent, that Chicago police had beat him until he confessed to a rape he didn’t commit. On Wednesday, he walked out of an Illinois prison a free man, thanks to a judge’s order that served as a reminder that one of the darkest chapters in the city’s history is far from over.
“It’s just an overwhelming feeling of joy, happiness that finally it’s over,” said Wrice, who was greeted by his two daughters, his attorneys, and other supporters. He wore sweat pants, a dark jacket and baseball cap and carried a cardboard box filled with letters, photographs and legal papers — all of his possessions after three decades in prison.
Wrice, who was sentenced to 100 years behind bars for a 1982 sexual assault, is among more than two dozen inmates — most of them black men — who have alleged they were tortured by officers under the command of disgraced former Chicago police Lt. Jon Burge in a scandal that gave the nation’s third-largest city a reputation as haven for rogue cops and helped lead to the clearing of Illinois’ death row. Some of the prisoners have been freed; some are still behind bars, hoping to get the kind of hearing that Wrice got that eventually led to his freedom.
In ordering Wrice set free and granting him a new trial, Judge Richard Walsh said Tuesday that two officers had “lied” about the way they’d treated Wrice, who testified that the officers beat him with a flashlight and a 20-inch piece of rubber. A witness testified that he, too, was beaten by the same officers until he agreed to give false testimony against Wrice at trial.
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