A man who said he was forced to confess to a brutal 1982 rape testified Thursday how the beating at the hands of two Chicago police officers dehumanized him.
“They didn’t care what I was, I didn’t feel human anymore,” Stanley Wrice said.
Six years ago, Wrice had his conviction overturned by a Cook County judge after serving 31 years in prison. Wrice was serving a 100-year sentence for his alleged role the gang rape and assault that took place in his South Side home when he was freed.
But a second judge in 2014 refused to grant Wrice a “certificate of innocence” because there was “substantial evidence” that he participated in the crime. Wrice’s claims of innocence is now central to a civil trial, which kicked off last week at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse.
Wrice, who is African American, said the white officers — Sgt. John Byrne and Detective Peter Dignan — shouted racial slurs at him while beating him with a flashlight and a rubber hose wrapped in tape.
Byrne and Dignan served under notorious Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge.
Wrice said he was asked to tell the officers what he knew about the rape and when he denied being involved, the onslaught of abuse intensified. At one point, Wrice said his arms were raised above his head and handcuffed to an iron bar, as on officer kicked his legs open and started hitting him in the groin with the flashlight.
When he couldn’t take the beating any longer, an assistant state’s attorney entered the interrogation room and began asking him questions. Wrice said it was then he broke down and said he was involved in the crime as the two officers stared him down.
“I didn’t want to go back in the basement no more,” he said.
Wrice said he had blood in his urine for almost a week before he was able to see a doctor.
Wrice’s attorney, Jennifer Bonjean, presented medical records in court that documented the bruises, including one on Wrice’s forehead that was inflicted after he was struck by the flashlight.
Wrice also testified about the abuse he endured while he was incarcerated in a maximum-security prison for those three decades.
The now 65-year-old said it has been difficult for him to find a job and adjust to society.
During cross-examination Thursday, Andrew Hale, Byrne and Dignan’s lawyer, asked Wrice if he recognized the iron used to burn the victim. Wrice said it was an iron his family used but that he never used it to harm the victim. Wrice claimed he was sleeping on a couch when the rape took place in the attic of his home, which was described in court as “a party house” where neighbors came to drink and do drugs.
Hale pointed to jurors inconsistent testimony from Wrice’s criminal trial, showing them a video in which Wrice initially denied he was the man in his mugshot. He later admitted it was him.
The mugshot didn’t appear to show any bruises on Wrice’s forehead but the old photo was also blurry in that portion of Wrice’s face. Hale also introduced into evidence the testimony of a doctor who testified that there were no discernible bruises on Wrice’s body at his criminal trial.