A federal jury awarded a Chicago man $5.2 million on Tuesday after he alleged he was tortured to confess to the gang rape and assault of a woman in 1982.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Stanley Wrice, who was sentenced to 100 years in prison and was freed after 31 years, alleged he was beaten by detectives John Byrne and Peter Dignan with a flashlight and length of rubber hose in the Area 2 police headquarters basement after he was arrested.
After a seven-hour deliberation by the jury, it was established the detectives violated his constitutional rights when they beat him. A third claim alleging his right to a fair trial was violated was, however, found in favor of the detectives.
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The city was ordered to pay Wrice $4 million in compensatory damages, while Dignan and Byrne were ordered to personally pay $600,000 each in punitive damages. The payment could, however, be delayed as Wrice’s lawyer, Jennifer Bonjean, expects an appeal from the city. She, however, claimed her client is satisfied with the verdict.
“For Mr. Wrice, just having a jury come back and say, ‘We believe you. We believe this happened to you in the basement of Area 2. We believe that Byrne and Dignan did this,’ … is the most unbelievable feeling, because he’s been called a liar for so many years,” said Bonjean, the Chicago Tribune reports.
The city’s Law Department, which decided to send the case to trial instead of settling it out of court, released a statement after the verdict on Tuesday.
“We believe the award, while significantly less than the plaintiff sought, is nonetheless inconsistent with the jury’s finding that no evidence was fabricated or suppressed,” the statement read.
“We are assessing next steps.”
Wrice and his friends, according to the Chicago police, repeatedly raped and assaulted the victim in his second-floor attic in 1982 and subsequently burned her body with an iron.
Key witnesses, however, later recanted their testimony and he was granted a new trial in December 2013, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. Wrice was eventually freed after prosecutors were unavailable to prove beyond reasonable doubt he participated in the crime as a result of recanted testimonies from witnesses as well as their unavailability and uncooperativeness.
A Cook County judge, however, later denied Wrice a “certificate of innocence” on the grounds that there was “substantial evidence” he “actively participated” in the crime.
“Each case has its own specific facts, and in the Wrice case, the city believes that he was properly charged and convicted of a particularly abhorrent and gruesome crime, for which he was sentenced to 100 years in prison,” Fieweger, a spokesperson for the city’s law department said in the statement. “No court has ever found him innocent and his certificate of innocence was denied.”
Wrice has, however, denied his involvement in the rape and assault, claiming he was asleep on his couch when it happened.