PONTIAC, Ill. - A judge overturned the conviction of a man who for decades insisted that police tortured him until he confessed to a rape he did not commit, freeing him Wednesday after 30 years behind bars.
Judge Richard Walsh overturned his conviction Tuesday, saying officers lied about how they had treated Stanley Wrice, 59.
"It's just an overwhelming feeling of joy, happiness that finally it's over with," Wrice said, moments after he walked into the arms of his two daughters, attorneys and others who greeted him as he left prison.
Wrice, whose belongings after so long in prison amounted to a small box filled with photographs, legal papers and letters, said his immediate plans were to eat a cheeseburger and get some sleep; he said he had none Tuesday night.
The ruling was just the latest development in one of the darkest chapters of Chicago Police Department history, in which officers working under former Lt. Jon Burge were accused of torturing suspects into false confessions and torturing witnesses into falsely implicating people in crimes.
Wrice has insisted for years that he confessed to the 1982 sexual assault after officers beat him in the groin and face. And a witness testified at a hearing Tuesday that he falsely implicated Wrice in the rape after two Chicago police officers under Burge's command tortured him.
Wrice was sentenced to 100 years in prison.
It will be up to a special prosecutor to decide whether to retry him following his release. The special prosecutor did not return a call seeking comment Tuesday evening.
Wrice joins a number of men who in recent years have been released from prison because they were tortured into confessing at the hands of Burge's men. Dozens of men — almost all of them black — have claimed that, starting in the 1970s, Burge and his officers beat or shocked them into confessing to crimes ranging from armed robbery to murder.
In court Tuesday, Wrice testified that two former officers beat him with a flashlight and a 20-inch (50 centimetre) piece of rubber — the same weapons, lawyers say, that others have said the two used on them to get them to confess to crimes or implicate others in crimes they did not commit.
The officers refused to testify at Tuesday's hearing, citing their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
No Chicago police officers have been convicted of torturing suspects, but Burge was convicted in 2010 for lying in a civil suit when he said he'd never witnessed or participated in the torture of suspects. He is serving a 4 1/2-year sentence in federal prison for perjury and obstruction of justice. Chicago also has paid out millions of dollars to settle lawsuits in cases related to Burge.
The torture allegations also were a factor in former Illinois Gov. George Ryan's decision to institute a moratorium on the death penalty in 2000. Gov. Pat Quinn abolished the death penalty in 2011.
Babwin reported from Chicago.