Fair is Foul and Foul is Fair...
All the Chicago media was in attendance at 26th and California Tuesday at the hearing of infamous police killer Jackie Wilson.
Wilson and his lawyer, Flint Taylor, are trying to get Wilson out of prison on claims that he was tortured by Jon Burge and his men four days after he and his brother Andrew murdered Officers Richard O’Brien and William Faheyin February, 1982..
This hearing was a crucial day for the Chicago media, one in which they could, once again, push a narrative about the Chicago Police and criminal justice system that has been the foundation of Chicago journalism for four decades.
But clearly the glory days of the Chicago media are fading, and fading fast. The reason is that so many cases are emerging that point to corruption in the wrongful conviction movement that the Chicago media machine must ignore as much evidence as they describe.
And what they ignore portends as dark a vision of Chicago journalism as many allegations against the Chicago Police.
Chicago is a MacBethian world, where everything can become its opposite: killers become heroes, police vicious criminals. And now, as their manufactured narratives about wrongfully convicted killers and rapists fall apart, journalists now face this world, as well.
Fair is foul and foul is fair.
Consider one of the cases now pending in the federal courts is the lawsuit of a man convicted for a rape. His name is Stanley Wrice.
According to police and court transcripts, here is what happened to the victim of the rape, Karen Byron, in September 1982, the same year Jackie and his brother Andrew gunned down Officers Fahey and O’Brien.
A lifelong alcoholic, Bryon left her apartment one night to go visit a friend. She was extremely drunk. As she walked, she was spotted by several men in a car, one of them being Stanley Wrice. The men pulled up to Byron and began ushering her into their car, telling her they would give her a ride.
A police sergeant spotted them. Suspicious, he approached and stopped them. He asked Karen Byron if she needed help. She said no. He asked if she wanted to go to the hospital. She said no. He asked if she wanted to go to the police station. She said no. It was the worst decision of her life.
The men never drove Byron to her friend’s house. Instead, they took her to Stanley Wrice’s house. Some of the offenders drove in the car; some walked back to Wrice’s house. They brought Byron there to the attic and began gang-raping her.
In addition to being raped, Byron was badly beaten.
But this wasn’t enough for Wrice, according to prosecutors. Throughout the night, he began torturing Karen Byron. He lit newspapers on fire and burned her with them. He went to the kitchen and heated up various implements on the stove, then went back to the attic and burned her again and again.
According to prosecutors in the case, Wrice eventually either pushed Byron or she fell down the stairs. He shoved her off the back porch. She crawled and walked to a gas station in shock and excruciating pain from second- and third-degree burns all over her body.
A gas station attendant discovered her and called the police. They took her to a nearby hospital, then she was sent to the Loyola Burn Center, where she endured months of agonizing treatment.
The sergeant who had stopped Wrice and the other offenders when they were putting Byron in the car heard the call at the hospital and relocated there. He told detectives about the stop and gave them the license plate number.
From Byron’s description, the detectives, who had worked with former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge during their careers, went to Wrice’s apartment, where they found loads of incriminating evidence. Several of the offenders confessed, pointing out the particularly vicious and cruel actions of Wrice.
At the criminal trial, a doctor testified about the agonizing treatments Byron endured for her burns, including numerous skin grafts.
Wrice was tried and convicted, sentenced to 100 years.
Wrice’s attorneys eventually claimed that Wrice was part of a pattern and practice of police abuse by “Burge detectives.” Despite all the evidence against Wrice and the fact that even his own co-offenders fingered him, he maintained that Wrice was innocent. Wrice argued he was home at the time of the attacks on Byron but did not participate.
This would mean that the detectives arbitrarily chose Wrice for the rape and torture. But why would the detectives care who was the worst offender in the crime? Why would they pin in it on the wrong guy? Wouldn’t this potentially leave the actual offender free to commit such atrocities again?
Such questions are never asked by the Chicago media.
In 2011 the courts ruled that Wrice should get another trial because of the evidence of a pattern and practice of misconduct against the detectives. Prosecutors declined to retry him, citing the fact that so many witnesses and the victim were now deceased.
Wrice and his attorneys then applied for a certificate of innocence. That’s when things went south for Wrice. In 2014 Judge Thomas Byrne denied the certificate because he thought Wrice was guilty.
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.”
But there was another key aspect to Byrne’s ruling. Byrne pointed out how suspicious it was that the co-offenders and witnesses had retracted earlier statements fingering Wrice. Even as late at 2005 in interviews with special prosecutors, these men still said that Wrice was the main offender.
What was it that got them to change their statements?
Well, the changed statements came after a reported visit from students working with David Protess, the former Northwestern University professor who left the school amidst a scandal after he was accused of lying about his investigations. Protess then opened the Chicago Innocence Project, with students acting as volunteers.
Here is what Judge Byrne said about one witness recantation:
He [the witness] has only come forward with his affidavit recanting his trial testimony in anticipation of the litigation surrounding [the] petitioner’s post-conviction petition. In fact, it was not until 2011 when he was contacted by the Chicago Innocence Project that he changed his story. His affidavit was prepared nearly 30 years after the crime occurred. The circumstances surrounding his recantation affidavit are certainly suspicious in light of [his] prior inconsistent testimony as it relates to this case.
Certainly suspicious? Obviously not suspicious enough for the Chicago media to go digging into them, even though Protess has been accused of generating false affidavits in other cases.
Not at all. The Chicago media has reported only the court rulings in the Stanley Wrice saga that it could not avoid mentioning in their stories—for example, Wrice’s failure to get his certificate of innocence. The larger issue of what Judge Byrne was suggesting in his ruling—that Wrice was guilty and that the retracted witness statements were suspicious—went uninvestigated by the journalists, even though, again, Protess is accused of generating false affidavits in other cases.
The scenario emerging in the Wrice case, that a man may have been exonerated on false claims against Burge detectives, will get little, if any, coverage from Chicago reporters.
This silence speaks volumes about the media, for the Wrice case took a macabre turn last year, one that is listed right in the docket of Wrice’s federal lawsuit.
It’s the deposition of a woman describing what it was like living near Stanley Wrice when she was just a fourteen-year-old girl. Wrice, she said, began raping and beating her at that age. The woman described how Wrice threatened to beat the girl’s mother if she told on him. Wrice, the woman testified, impregnated her three times.
Her descriptions of her physical and sexual abuse by Wrice are as chilling and disgusting as Karen Byron’s descriptions of being gang-raped and severely burned. In her trial testimony, Byron talked about looking at a small window in the attic throughout the course of the nightmare she endured when she was repeatedly raped and tortured.
Perhaps this window, this small glimpse into the world away from this living nightmare that very well could have been the last moments of her life, was the sole image that carried her through her ordeal.
Now Stanley Wrice’s case is in the federal courts. Despite the overwhelming evidence against him, despite the fact that a judge rejected his certificate of innocence, Wrice is moving forward with his lawsuit claiming that he was wrongfully convicted.
And in this now-familiar journey in Chicago from vicious criminal to victim of police injustice and fabulous wealth, Wrice can be certain of one thing: He has little to worry about from the Chicago media.
He can, just like Jackie Wilson, count on them.