Ex-Chicago Mayor Daley called to testify on police torture claims

Thirty-one years have passed since Stanley Wrice was convicted for allegedly being part of a gang rape in Chicago.

But despite the fact he was given a 100-year sentence, Wrice could soon be a free man -- depending, in part, on testimony from Chicago's former long-standing mayor, Richard M. Daley.

The now 60-year-old Wrice has always claimed he was innocent. He says he only confessed because he was tortured by Chicago cops after his arrest in 1982. A medical report written shortly after Wrice confessed states "there were too many bruises on his body to list on the report," said defense attorney Jennifer Bonjean.

After years of legal wrangling, Wrice is now scheduled for an evidentiary hearing in September, where a judge will take another look at his case and the torture claims. Daley has been subpoenaed to take the witness stand and talk about what he knows, or knew, under oath.

His testimony could have wide-ranging implications for this and other cases.

Bonjean argues that, as the state's attorney, "Daley knew or should've known the torture was taking place."

"There is evidence that shows Daley's office got a letter from a doctor in 1982, who contacted police with concerns about prisoners being tortured," she said. "We want to ask him if he got the letter and if he read it."

Daley was the Cook County state's attorney at the time of Wrice's arrest and conviction. It was also during a time when claims of torture by Chicago police were allegedly commonplace under the tenure of infamous police Commander Jon Burge, from 1972-1991.

If Chicago's former top boss does say he was aware of the torture, Wrice's confession could be tossed out and a new trial could be ordered or the charges could be dropped altogether.

Two of the co-defendants who testified against Wrice also claim police tortured them.

But Daley's testimony could have far-reaching implications beyond Wrice's case.

"Over a hundred convictions" via torture confessions could be overturned, or at least given another look, said Bonjean.

"There were 119 documented cases of people tortured into confessing" during the Commander Burge years, according to civil rights attorney Flint Taylor of The People's Law Office, who has focused on working with alleged Chicago torture victims.  "Only 15 of them have been exonerated" with confessions thrown out, he said. More than a dozen inmates are still in prison, hoping for new hearings in their cases.

A Cook County investigation of torture claims showed many of them to be credible.

Chicago's current mayor, Rahm Emanuel, declared that he wants the rest of the torture claims investigated and resolved quickly.

There's a common element in all the cases, said Heidi Linn Lambros, who is assisting pro bono in Wrice's case. "The victims were all African Americans and the cops were all white," she said.

Attempts to reach Daley for comment were not successful.

Former Illinois Gov. George Ryan, citing concerns about police brutality, declared a moratorium on the death penalty in the state before the end of his term in 2000.

In 2003, "four inmates were given innocence pardons on the basis that they were falsely convicted because they were tortured into confessions," said Taylor. All convicts on death row at the time were granted clemency and commuted to life sentences or less.

It's now possible that civil suits could be filed against Daley, although they'd be difficult to win as Daley would have absolute immunity as a prosecutor, according to legal experts.

Daley, who retired after six terms as Chicago's top boss in 2011, was subpoenaed through law firm Katten Muchin Rosenman, where he currently works as a consultant. Calls to the firm for comment were not returned.

Police Commander Burge, who was fired from the force in 1993, was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison for lying about the abuse of suspects.

At this point, Wrice has spent more time behind bars than outside of them. "He is a broken man," Bonjean said. "No amount of money could ever make him whole again. His life was destroyed."

His attorneys said Wrice is still eager to see his five children again. His youngest was just married last August.