Illinois Supreme Court Victory for Alleged Burge Torture Victim Stanley Wrice
On February 2, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that Stanley Wrice, one of 15 men still in prison despite credible evidence that they were tortured into confessing by subordinates of convicted former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge, is entitled to a new evidentiary hearing to resolve his torture claim.
The Roderick MacArthur Justice Center filed an amicus brief (pdf) in the case on behalf of legal and political leaders including former U.S. Senator Adlai Stevenson and former Illinois Governor Jim Thompson urging immediate hearings for Wrice and the 14 other alleged torture victims still in prison.
Last year, a state appeals court ruled that Wrice was entitled to the hearing, which could lead to the reversal of his conviction. Prosecutors sought to block that hearing in an appeal to the State Supreme Court, claiming that the torture inflicted by Burge's notorious "Midnight Crew" was "harmless error."
In the Supreme Court's opinion in Wrice's case, Justice Mary Jane Theis wrote for a unanimous court, "Use of a defendant's physically coerced confession as substantive evidence of his guilt is never harmless error."
The Court's opinion in Wrice's case should apply to the 14 other Burge victims who remain behind bars, despite claims similar to Wrice's.
Channel 7 coverage (video) about the significance of the decision from former Illinois Gov. Thompson and MacArthur Justice Center Attorney Bowman.
Updated - 02/07/12
Alleged Burge Torture Victim Granted New Hearing
More than 20 men who were allegedly tortured by Jon Burge and his men remain in prison. One of these men - Stanley Wrice - won a victory last week when the Court granted him an evidentiary hearing (pdf) where, for the first time, he will be permitted to show that his alleged torture at the hands of John Byrne and Peter Dignan, two of Burge's men, was part of the larger pattern of abuse of African American suspects by detectives working for Burge.
The MacArthur Justice Center had filed an amicus brief with the Appellate Court in Wrice's case arguing that, for the good of the Illinois criminal justice system, Wrice had to be afforded a full and fair hearing on his torture claim.
Updated - 12/13/2010
Attorneys and Human Rights Activists to Court: Allow Burge Victims to Air Claims of Torture
As over 20 men continue to languish in prison for wrongful convictions resulting from the Jon Burge torture scandal, attorneys and human rights activists recently asked the Illinois Appellate Court to clear the way for full and fair hearings into their claims of abuse.
In a "friend of the court" brief filed in support of Stanley Wrice - who alleges he was beaten into confessing by John Byrne (Burge's "right hand man") and Peter Dignan (a member of Burge's "Midnight Crew") - advocates argue Wrice and the other still-incarcerated men deserve prompt and complete hearings into their claims that their convictions rest on confessions procured by torture.
Updated - 03/08/2010