Attorneys For Accused Detectives Attack Police Misconduct Claim In Vicious Rape Case
Where is The Media Hysteria Now? Is Media Hiding Bombshell Evidence?
Attorneys for two “Burge” era detectives and the City of Chicago told a federal judge Friday that they would file a motion for summary judgment to dismiss a civil lawsuit by a man who claims he was wrongfully convicted of raping and burning a woman.
That motion, if successful, would undermine the innocence claims of Stanley Wrice, convicted of raping Karen Byron, who, according to trial records, was brought to Wrice’s apartment in September 1982, gang-raped, and severely burned by Wrice over the course of several hours. Wrice was sentenced to 100 years. Wrice’s attorneys and other advocates claim Wrice was the victim of coercion by two detectives, Pete Dignan and John Byrne: both labeled “Burge” detectives because they once worked for former police commander Jon Burge and have been accused of misconduct in many cases.
But attorneys for the city and the detectives seem to believe they have a good chance of winning the case, as they have already amassed a large body of evidence and rulings pointing to the fact that Wrice was not wrongfully convicted.
A victory in the case for the detectives, therefore, would be problematic for the wrongful conviction movement, which has suffered some stunning reversals and embarrassing developments in the last eight years.
A sign of just how important this case could be was revealed Friday by the fact that no Chicago media outlet covered it, particularly the Chicago Tribune. While the Tribune and the local media cover every case, every court hearing, every document alleging police misconduct, from so-called wrongful convictions to so-called unjustified shootings, with an aggression bordering on the hysterical, the local media has steadfastly ignored the compelling developments and potential consequences of cases that undermine their treasured anti-police narrative.
So the media has done yet again in the Wrice case. Tribune reporter Jason Meisner, a virtual media relations specialist for law firms alleging “wrongful conviction,” was nowhere to be found at the hearing. Meisner and the Tribune’s silence over the Wrice case is telling. That Karen Byron was viciously raped and burned with an iron and implements heated on a gas stove in 1982 is not debated. It is among the most heinous of crimes one could imagine. How, then, could the local media ignore the developments that point to the evidence that Wrice should not have been let out of prison?
Let’s take a close look at the developments in the case, leading up to the announcement in court Friday that attorneys for the detectives are filing a motion for summary judgment, meaning attorneys for the defense will argue the case should be dismissed.
After Wrice’s exoneration in 2013, his attorneys petitioned for a certificate of innocence, a key step in garnering a settlement from the city.
Circuit Court judge Thomas Byrne reviewed the petition and rejected it. 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.”
With a judge declaring Wrice guilty of the crime, how could the city settle the case? How could the city not take it to trial? A powerful question, therefore, lingers in the Wrice case. If this exoneration should not have taken place, how many others shouldn’t have?
And the Wrice exoneration is a so-called “Burge” case.
The question is even more compelling as a large body of evidence has emerged in other exonerations that the originally convicted offenders should not have been released and the detectives were falsely accused. Northwestern University, for example, recently settled a lawsuit in which the school was accused of falsely exonerating Anthony Porter in 1999 for a double murder. Those allegations center on former NU journalism professor David Protess accused of obtaining false witness recantations in the Porter case. Protess formed an “Innocence Project” organization after he left Northwestern in the midst of a scandal that led to his dismissal. It was this Innocence Project that obtained witness recantations in the Wrice case, recantations also under fire.
Federal Magistrate judge Sheila Finnegan ruled that a defense theory in the Wrice case claiming the alleged pattern of misconduct in the wrongful conviction cases, particularly obtaining false affidavits, can be pursued by the defense.
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.”
The Anthony Porter exoneration was a groundbreaking story for the Chicago media, especially for the Tribune. The Tribune wrote dozens of articles echoing the claim that Porter was innocent, framed by investigating detectives. Small wonder the paper is ignoring, hiding even, the revelations in the Wrice case, which further suggest glaring misconduct at the paper.
Consider this additional bombshell accusation that has emerged in the Wrice civil case.
According to court documents, one man, Rodney Benson, who had been convicted in connection with the rape, testified that someone offered him a cut of Wrice’s settlement money in the civil 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.
The testimony of a second witness was even worse.
This witness, 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 dire picture of Wrice’s abuse against 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.
Again, the Chicago Tribune covered none of this.
With so much evidence that the Wrice exoneration was bogus, how could the city justify morally or legally settling the case? It would offend human decency not to try it.
Motions for summary judgment are due in August, according to trial statements.