Will Trib Columnist Eric Zorn Write About Stanley Wrice Trial?
Will Lightfoot’s Corporation Counsel Settle Key Case?
Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn owes the citizens of Chicago, including its police officers, a column about an impending federal trial in a civil lawsuit brought by attorneys representing Stanley Wrice.
Zorn owes the public this column because he needs to explain whether he thinks Wrice is truly innocent of the vicious rape and severe burning of Karen Byron in 1982, a crime so vicious that Wrice was sentenced to 100 years in prison even though Byron survived the attack and the treatments she received at the Loyola Burn Center.
Zorn has never held back making known his opinion about the conduct of detectives on dozens of so-called wrongful convictions going back decades, including the two main ones involving the Wrice investigation, retired detectives Jack Byrne and Pete Dignan. In fact, Zorn’s career at the Tribune could reasonably be described as being the most outspoken voice in the Chicago media claiming false convictions based upon corrupt police.
And those articles throughout the years from Zorn and his cohorts at the Tribune often come out on the verge of a trial in these cases, often precipitating a settlement by a city guided as much by media pressure as any pesky rules of evidence.
And that’s where the Wrice case is right now, set for an August 5 trial in the federal courts, where Wrice will attempt to complete his transformation from a vicious criminal into a millionaire folk hero, the way so many others have before him.
So Zorn should explain how it is that Wrice is innocent and walking free for his alleged attack on Byron. In his column, Zorn should explain the likelihood of Wrice’s alibi that he was at home during the gang rape of Byron in Wrice’s own attic, but that Wrice didn’t know it was taking place.
Zorn should also explain the ominous ruling by Circuit Court Judge Thomas Byrne after Wrice got out of prison. Wrice and his attorney came before Judge Byrne asking for a certificate of innocence from the judge.
Judge Byrne rejected the innocence certificate, the first sign that Wrice may very well be a wrongful exoneration, a dire one. A judge reviewing the case and stating that he didn’t buy the innocence claims is fairly damning. But Judge Byrne said even more than that. Byrne cast suspicion on witness recantations in the case, pointing out that the witnesses steadfastly fingered Wrice for the crime for decades, changing their story only after a visit from students working with former Northwestern professor David Protess, who has been under fire for a litany of similar accusations of false witness recantations.
Zorn should explain another chilling development in the case. During the course of discovery in the lawsuit, a witness stepped forward who stated that she grew up in the same neighborhood as Wrice and that, beginning when she was 14, Stanley Wrice began raping and beating her. She testified that Wrice said he would kill her grandmother if she told on Wrice. She said that her first three children were the result of rapes from Stanley Wrice.
How ’bout that?
One would think that such bombshell accusations would have been splashed across the city’s newspapers. But this is Chicago. Jason Meisner, the federal courts reporter for the Tribune, never published a word about it. His journalism professors must be so proud. And the Sun-Times? Well, it’s the Sun-Times. The reporters there are little more than lapdogs for the law firms that bring lawsuits against the police.
But, like Judge Byrne, the FOP is highly dubious about Wrice’s innocence claims. In fact, the FOP is dubious about many such claims emanating from the Chicago Tribuneover the last 30 years, in particular Eric Zorn’s.
With a new mayor comes new possibilities. So the FOP sent a letter to newly elected Mayor Lori Lightfoot, an advocate of transparency and accountability for the police and elected officials, asking that the city take the Wrice case to trial, asking that the city not consider settling it. For what, after all, provides more transparency and accountability than a fair trial?
Lightfoot’s decision on the Wrice case—whether to settle or go to trial in a vicious rape case that includes testimony of a woman claiming she was raped and impregnated three times by Wrice—would tell the citizens a great deal about what they can expect from her administration.
If Lightfoot’s city lawyers settle this case, well, then she can join the ranks of so many other Chicago politicians, like her predecessor, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, for whom justice and accountability were merely rhetorical artifices to hide the city’s truly dark corruption. If, on the other hand, she lets the case go to trial, then the members of the FOP and the citizens of Chicago will have a clear indication that justice is paramount in her administration and that a new day is finally dawning in Chicago.
In the meantime, Eric Zorn owes the people of Chicago a column on the impending Wrice trial.
The city, in fact, is desperate for it.