CHICAGO (AP) – Prosecutors told a judge Thursday that they won’t retry an Illinois man who was set free this week after spending three decades behind bars for a rape he says he didn’t commit.
Stanley Wrice, looking clearly relieved, shook his head and exhaled as Cook County Judge Richard Walsh officially ended the criminal case against the 59-year-old by saying, “The case is dismissed.”
As he left the courtroom, Wrice embraced his attorneys. When one turned to tell a crowd of people waiting for hearings in unrelated cases that Wrice had just be exonerated after 31 years, they broke into applause.
“I feel like I am walking into a dream that finally came true,” said Wrice, standing in a hallway.
After the hearing, which lasted just minutes, assistant special prosecutor Rafael Bombino declined to discuss why the state chose to drop charges and not try Wrice again, saying only that, “It’s over now.”
Wrice said that after being released Wednesday from the Pontiac Correctional Center, he played basketball with his grandchildren and slept “really well” during his first night of freedom.
His lawyers said they expect to file a lawsuit on Wrice’s behalf soon, but that they next plan to apply for a “certificate of innocence,” that could qualify Wrice for a nearly $200,000 payment from the state. Such a payment would be separate from any potential award he might get from the lawsuit.
“This is the official end of this travesty of justice,” one of Wrice’s attorneys, Jennifer Bonjean, said Thursday. “But it is the beginning of his life.”
Wrice will start a new job next week working on outreach projects for the Chicago Innocence Project, which investigates cases of those who may have been wrongly convicted. The group supported Wrice as he fought for his release.
Wrice is among more than two dozen inmates _ most of them black men _ who have alleged they were tortured by officers under the command of disgraced former Chicago police Lt. Jon Burge.
The city has already paid more than $80 million over the years in torture cases.
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