Chilling Testimony In Key Rape Case...
The circumstances of Stanley Wrice’s conviction for the gang rape and severe burning of a woman in 1982 were so gruesome and cruel that the presiding Cook County Criminal Court judge imposed a 100-year sentence on the defendant.
Wrice remained in prison until 2013, released after a collection of wrongful conviction activists picked up his case and argued for his innocence.
The reason for Wrice’s exoneration, the activists claimed? The detectives who arrested and charged Wrice, themselves never indicted or convicted, were alleged to have been tied to south side detectives who coerced confessions. Wrice’s advocates claimed they coerced a confession from Wrice as well.
It’s a familiar story. Based on these claims, the appeals courts caved. They tossed the conviction. Prosecutors declined to re-prosecute, and Wrice was suddenly out of prison, the media obediently echoing the claims that Wrice was “wrongfully convicted.”
All seemed smooth sailing for Wrice and his attorneys on his way to seemingly inevitable multimillion dollar lawsuit against the detectives. After the exoneration, there remained the relatively routine task of obtaining a certificate of innocence. Once the certificate is granted to the exonerated, how can the city refuse a settlement?
Then trouble arrived. Circuit Court judge Thomas Byrne judge reviewed the case for Wrice’s request for a grant of an innocence certificate. The judge unloaded a bombshell on Wrice and his attorney. Byrne said he wouldn’t grant the certificate because the evidence was “powerful” that Wrice committed the crime.
From the Chicago Tribune:
In a 44-page ruling, Judge Thomas Byrne concluded that what he called strong circumstantial evidence, eyewitness testimony and physical evidence recovered at the crime scene all "powerfully" pointed to the guilt of Stanley Wrice in the 1982 rape…
"His description of the events defies common sense," wrote Byrne. "It is simply inconceivable that he would not smell the charred flesh or the scent of burning paper (or) hear the sounds of the violent assault."
Byrne also cast doubt on the legitimacy of witnesses’ retracted statements in his ruling.
Even without obtaining the certificate of innocence, Wrice and his lawyers pursued their federal lawsuit against the detectives.
But even the civil case has not been going well. Federal Magistrate Judge Sheila Finnegan ruled that a defense theory claiming there is a pattern of misconduct in the wrongful conviction cases, particularly obtaining false affidavits, can be pursued by the defense.
This body of evidence is tied to former Northwestern University Professor David Protess, who is facing the same allegations in another lawsuit in which he is a defendant.
From court documents:
Defendants also claim that “a substantial body of information has surfaced in the past several years concerning illegal and coercive tactics that were routinely utilized by Protess and his designees to obtain information and recantations from witnesses in several cases, including Plaintiff’s case.” According to Defendants, “Witnesses from whom Protess procured recantations in other criminal cases have since come forward alleging that Protess and his team of investigators used coercion in various forms—dangling young female college students as sexual bait, impersonating movie producers, promising book/movie deals, making cash payments, and promising convicted murderers their freedom from prison—to procure false recantations from them.”
Now, two witnesses have stepped forward and provided powerful testimony in the case.
According to court documents, one man, Rodney Benson, who had been convicted and sentenced to probation in connection with the rape, testified that someone offered him a cut of Wrice’s settlement money in the lawsuit if Benson would change his testimony.
From the Benson deposition:
Q: Okay. Who did you speak to?
A: I have no idea.
Q: Okay. Do you know, was it a man or a woman?
A: It was a woman.
Q: Did this woman identify herself in any way?
A: If she did, I don’t recall because I didn’t start paying attention until what she told what the call was pertaining to. Then I was all ears.
Q: Okay. What did she—what did she say the call was pertaining to.
A: The call was pertaining to a case Stanley Wrice was having.
Q: Okay. And do you recall what this woman said?
A: Oh, yeah.
Q: Can you tell us what she said?
A: “Stanley Wrice stands to make $50 million.”
A: And if I were to keep quiet or agree to say what she says she wanted me to say, she could almost guarantee that I would get 5 percent.
There it was again, the claim that a key witness was offered a bribe in exchange for altered testimony.
The testimony of the second witness was even worse.
Wrice’s criminal trial painted a chilling picture of the offenders, a cruelty and brutality that is difficult to imagine, gang raping then severely burning a woman.
In this second witness deposition, a woman testified last year that at the age of fourteen she was repeatedly beaten and forced to have sex with Wrice, who was several years older than the teenager. This victim, who lived near Wrice, painted a picture of living in terror, sometimes standing up to Wrice and getting a beating, other times giving into his demands and letting him have his way with her. The victim stated that Wrice got her pregnant with her first three children, beginning at the age of fourteen.
From her deposition:
Q: So would he have had to go by your house to go to the liquor store?
A. Yes. Yes.
Q. Okay. Do you remember the first time that --When he was violent with you, was he always violent and there was sex involved, or was it sometimes just violence with no sex?
A. Sometimes violence without sex, yes.
Q. Okay. Do you remember the first time he was violent with you?
A. Only thing I know, it happened in 1978 during the time I conceived my child…
Q. Why did you go over to the Wrice residence?
A. Because -- Let me get this explained straight again. We're talking about Stanley Wrice, abusive person. This is what he does. And he came to get me, lured me back down there to do what we had to do.
Q. Okay. How did you lure you? I'm just trying to understand.
A. He -- We would fight, drag, do anything of that nature.
Q. Okay. Did you tell your mom?
A. I didn't tell my mother because she's --Pretty much, he would tell me to -- say, if my mother finds out, she was going to get hurt.
A. Or anybody else that found out…Because he was type of person that would try to grab you or do any harm to you. Because I had to go to school and everything of that nature, or whatever. And he would be there.
Q. Okay. But he never grabbed you off the street?
A. He has done stuff like that, yes.
Q. Okay. Well, when did he do that?
A. In the year of 1980 -- Like I said again, from '79 to '82, I been abused by Stanley Wrice.
Q. I'm not quarreling that you were in an abusive relationship with Stanley Wrice. I'm trying to understand the nature of what happened, and I'm trying to understand how it happened. Okay? I'm not --
A. Well, I explained it to you guys. I said he was the type of person where he -- It first started off with his sisters. We graduated from that situation. Then he started stepping out -- Because I had his kid. He started just randomly showing up -- randomly showing up and taking control.
Q. Where did he show up?
A. At school or he would show up at my house.
Q. And did you get in the car with him?
A. I got in the car, yes.
Q. Okay. Did you ever -- Did he use violence in order to get you to have sex with him?
Q. Okay. Did he always use violence to get you to have sex with him?
A. It pretty much was always. Because it wasn't like we had sex every day, every week. It wasn't like that.
Q. Okay. Was he -- I mean, did he just come around and threaten you to get you to have sex, or is that when you would see him?...
A. I think it was -- Like I said again, it was with his sisters that I went socializing with them. He would not bother us at some times. But I think when he got to drinking or whatever that makes people do, that's when he would get real abusive.
According to the wrongful conviction activists in the Wrice case, the detectives conspired to frame an innocent man for a rape. But then a neighbor comes forward and claims that Wrice repeatedly beat and forced her into having sex when she was fourteen.
What a coincidence.
The chilling testimony of a witness claiming he was offered a bribe and a woman who claims she was repeatedly raped by Wrice has been on the record for awhile. Yet no media outlet has covered it.
One wonders: Where is the real code of silence in Chicago? Imagine if similar allegations were made against a Chicago police officer or detective.
But despite the media silence about the bombshell statements, they are on record, part of the Wrice lawsuit now limping its way through the federal courts, demanding that Wrice get a huge payday for his “wrongful conviction.”
And the victim in the case, the one who was almost burned to death after being gang raped?
She died several years ago, so she can’t take the stand and tell her story once again of what happened to her in Stanley Wrice’s home.