Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Wrice v. Burge

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

November 29, 2016

STANLEY WRICE, Plaintiff,
v.
JON BURGE, et al., Defendants.

          Elaine E. Bucklo, Judge

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Sheila Finnegan, United States Magistrate Judge

         Plaintiff Stanley Wrice filed this action in August 2014, asserting various federal and state claims in connection with his allegedly wrongful prosecution, conviction, and 30-year incarceration for the 1982 rape and deviate sexual assault of a victim referred to as “K.B.” (See Doc. 1.)[1] Now before this Court are two discovery motions referred to this Court for decision by the district judge: (1) Motion by Non-Parties David Protess and Chicago Innocence Center (collectively, “Protess”) for Entry of Protective Order, and (2) Motion to Quash Subpoenas or in the Alternative for a Protective Order of non-parties Kayla Bensing, Kira Lerner, Quinn Thacker, and Jaimie Vaillancourt (the “Students”). (Docs. 82, 84, 106, 112.) Both motions seek to quash or limit certain subpoenas served by Defendants seeking documents and depositions regarding the investigations conducted by these non-parties of the allegedly wrongful prosecutions and convictions of Plaintiff Wrice and other criminal defendants. For the reasons explained below, both motions are granted in part and denied in part.

         BACKGROUND

          I. Wrice's Wrongful Conviction Allegations in this Case

         According to Wrice's complaint, on September 9, 1982, then 33-year-old K.B. was sexually assaulted and burned, over a two-hour period, in the attic of a home that Wrice shared with his brother and sister (Charles and Patricia Wrice) and his sister's boyfriend (Bobby Joe Williams). (Doc. 63 ¶ 13.) K.B. was allegedly brought to the Wrice home voluntarily by Rodney Benson, but could not identify the men who attacked her afterward. (Id. at ¶¶ 13, 15.) Wrice, his brother Charles, Williams, Benson, and two others (Lee Holmes and Michael Fowler) were arrested for K.B.'s assault on the day of the incident. (Id. at ¶ 13.) Bobby Joe Williams was identified by police as having been in K.B.'s presence earlier in the evening, but was not charged. (Id.) But Wrice, Benson, Holmes, and Fowler were each charged the next day, after each allegedly made inculpatory statements about their participation in the crime. (Id.)

         As for Wrice's confession, he alleges in this case (and similarly alleged prior to his criminal trial) that his inculpatory statements to Defendants Byrne, Dignan, and an Assistant State's Attorney (“ASA”) “were made as a result of psychological, physical and mental coercion by the Defendant Officers.” (Id. at ¶¶ 14-15.) According to his complaint, the Defendant Officers brutally beat and tortured Wrice, fed him facts about K.B.'s assault which the Defendant Officers learned from K.B. and which Wrice did not know, and coerced Wrice to confess to K.B.'s assault when interviewed by the ASA. (Id. at ¶¶ 14-34.) Wrice further alleges that he only confessed to the ASA “because he was afraid of Defendants Byrne and Dignan and because he believed that they would continue to beat him until he falsely confessed to the crimes, ” so “he repeated the false story of his involvement in K.B.'s assault to the State's Attorney.” (Id. at ¶ 22.)

         Although Wrice moved to suppress his confession, and presented medical testimony to corroborate his claim that he was tortured by Defendants Byrne and Dignan, those officers denied any such abuse, the trial court found their denials to be credible, and Wrice's confession was admitted at his criminal trial. (Id. at ¶¶ 14, 23-31, 36.) Additionally, the State introduced testimony from two witnesses-Bobby Joe Williams and Kenny Lewis. (Id. at ¶ 36.) According to Wrice, Lewis was then K.B.'s boyfriend and was only discovered by an ASA five days before Wrice's trial. (Id.) And although no witness had placed Lewis in the Wrice home on the night of K.B.'s assault, Lewis testified that he saw Wrice strike and burn K.B. (Id.) Wrice also alleges that “Bobby Joe Williams perjured himself at Plaintiff's 1983 trial when he implicated Plaintiff in the offenses, ” because (unbeknownst to Wrice at the time), “when Williams was arrested for K.B.'s assault he was beaten by Defendants Byrne and Dignan during his interrogation and forced to implicate Plaintiff in K.B.'s assault.” (Id. at ¶¶ 37-38.)

         In May 1983, Wrice was convicted of K.B.'s rape and deviate sexual assault and sentenced to 100 years in prison. (Id. at ¶ 39.) Benson, Holmes, and Fowler then pled guilty to aggravated battery of K.B., with Benson and Holmes sentenced to 30 months' probation, and Fowler to 4 years in prison. (Id. at ¶ 40.) Wrice remained in prison until December 2013, when the state court granted his third post-conviction petition and granted him a new trial, “finding that Defendants Byrne and Dignan committed perjury when they testified in 1983 that they did not beat Plaintiff to secure his inculpatory statement.” (Id. at ¶ 52.) But the State declined to retry Wrice, after one of its witnesses (Lewis) had died (although Illinois law allowed introducing a deceased witness's prior sworn testimony at a retrial), and the other (Williams) had recanted. (Id. at ¶¶ 53, 72.) Williams' recantation is central to the motions now before the Court.

         II. Protess's Connection to this Case

         Both sides agree that the work of non-party and movant David Protess in the area of investigating alleged wrongful convictions, as a journalist and former professor at Northwestern University, “is well known.” (Doc. 82, at 13; Doc. 94, at 4: describing Protess as a “widely known Northwestern University Journalism professor and a self-proclaimed expert on wrongful convictions.”) Protess formed the Chicago Innocence Project (“CHIP”)-predecessor to the Chicago Innocence Center (“CIC”), which joins in his current motion-in 2011. (Doc. 82, at 1.) Protess explains in his motion that, at the time he founded CHIP, he and certain Northwestern journalism students under his supervision conducted an investigation into Wrice's 1983 conviction. (Id. at 1.) Both sides also agree that, through this investigation, CHIP procured three “recantation affidavits” (Protess says the affidavits were provided to his students in his absence), which CHIP then submitted with an amicus brief in support of Wrice's third post-conviction petition before the Illinois Supreme Court. (Id. at 1-3; Doc. 94, at 4.)

         One of the affidavits came from Bobby Joe Williams (Doc. 115-4, at 23), who Wrice alleges in this action was “forced” and “coerced” to implicate Wrice in K.B.'s assault with the same sort of beatings and torture that the Defendant Officers used to force Wrice himself to confess to the crime. (Doc. 63, ¶¶ 37-41.) The affidavit Williams gave CHIP, and which CHIP submitted to the Illinois Supreme Court in support of Wrice's post-conviction petition, alleged the same. (Doc. 115-4, at 23-24; Doc. 94-1, at 6-7.) The other two affidavits came from Benson and Fowler (Doc. 115-4, at 28-34), Wrice's co-defendants who pled guilty to assaulting K.B. The Benson and Fowler affidavits similarly claimed that they were abused by police during their interrogations, and denied any knowledge that Wrice was involved in K.B.'s assault. (Id.)

         Defendants claim that the affidavits Williams and Benson gave CHIP “are false and were procured through unethical and suspect tactics” (Doc. 94, at 2), and that “relevant information was ultimately excluded from Fowler's affidavit.” (Doc. 117, at 5.) Defendants base these assertions, in part, on prior statements by these witnesses in 2005 to a Special Prosecutor appointed to investigate allegations of torture in the Chicago police precinct (Area 2) where Wrice, Williams, Benson, and Fowler were allegedly beaten and tortured when interrogated about K.B.'s assault. (Doc. 94, at 2; Doc. 94-16, at 10, 26, 32, 40-44; Doc. 115-4, at 37-80, 84.) Contrary to the affidavits they later gave CHIP in 2011 (and which CHIP submitted to the Illinois Supreme Court in support of Wrice's post-conviction petition), Defendants assert that none of those witnesses made any exculpatory statements about Wrice when interviewed by the Special Prosecutor six years earlier in 2005. (Doc. 94, at 2.)

         For instance, when Williams was asked by the Special Prosecutor if he told the officers anything new or different as a result of the beatings he endured during his interrogation, Williams answered “No, not that I can remember.” (Doc. 115-4, at 59-60.) Benson similarly told the Special Prosecutor about the beatings inflicted by Defendants Byrne and Dignan, but never recanted statements he had made against Wrice during that interrogation. (Doc. 94-16, at 10, 26, 32, 40-44; Doc. 94-15, at 53-56.) On the contrary, three years later in 2008, Benson gave deposition testimony in a civil case reaffirming his incrimination of Wrice. (Doc. 94-15, at 26-28: stating that Wrice had sex with K.B. and then took a hot carving fork upstairs and burned her with it.) And Fowler said nothing about Wrice's guilt or innocence when he was interviewed by the Special Prosecutor in 2005, though the affidavit he gave CHIP six years later attested that he never saw Wrice threaten or harm K.B. (Doc. 115-4, at 33-34, 84.)

         Although Fowler is now deceased (Doc. 117-21, at 3), Wrice has disclosed both Williams and Benson as witnesses in this action. (Doc. 115-4, at 87-88: listing Williams for “Matters related to his interrogation and torture suffered at the hands of Byrne and Dignan, ” and Benson for “Matters related to criminal charges brought against Plaintiff.”) Defendants contend that the original statements of these witnesses incriminating Wrice “were in fact truthful, ” and “but for the questionable methods used by the Students and Protess, ” they would not have recanted those statements in the affidavits they gave to CHIP. (Doc. 117, at 12.) Defendants also claim that “a substantial body of information has surfaced in the past several years concerning illegal and coercive tactics that were routinely utilized by Protess and his designees to obtain information and recantations from witnesses in several cases, including Plaintiff's case.” (Doc. 94, at 5.) According to Defendants, “Witnesses from whom Protess procured recantations in other criminal cases have since come forward alleging that Protess and his team of investigators used coercion in various forms-dangling young female college students as sexual bait, impersonating movie producers, promising book/movie deals, making cash payments, and promising convicted murderers their freedom from prison-to procure false recantations from them.” (Id. at 2.)

         III. The Simon Litigation

         Similar allegations are currently being lodged against Protess in other litigation now pending in this district: Simon v. Northwestern Univ., No. 15-cv-1433 (N.D. Ill. filed Feb. 17, 2015). The plaintiff in that case, Alstory Simon, filed that lawsuit against Protess, Northwestern University, and others in February 2015. Id. Although certain of Simon's claims were voluntarily dismissed as time-barred, several Counts against Protess and the University remain. Simon v. Northwestern Univ., __ F.Supp.3d __, 2016 WL 1622614, at *9 (Apr. 22, 2016). According to Judge Dow's recent decision denying their motion to dismiss those claims, Simon alleges that in late 1998, Protess, his investigator, and several of his Northwestern journalism students “began investigating the 1983 double-murder conviction of Anthony Porter, ” and soon thereafter “formulated a plan to fabricate evidence that would exonerate Porter for the murders.” Id. at *2. Simon alleges that their “primary tactic” was to “develop an alternate suspect, and that person was Plaintiff, Alstory Simon.” Id. According to Simon's allegations, Protess and his investigator and students “knowingly manufactured and fabricated four pieces of false evidence which they contended dismantled the case against Porter and proved that Simon committed the murders.” Id. As a result, Simon allegedly was indicted “based solely on the false evidence manufactured by the Northwestern Team, ” pled guilty at the insistence of a lawyer procured for him by Protess's investigator “free of charge, ” and was sentenced to 52 years in prison in September 1999. Id. at *3.

         Years later, in 2005-2006, two of the witnesses from whom the Northwestern Team had procured affidavits incriminating Simon allegedly recanted their statements, “explaining that they provided false testimony based on promises made by Defendant Protess.” Id. at *4. A reinvestigation of Simon's conviction followed, and in October 2014, the state court vacated all charges against Simon, at the suggestion of the Cook County State's Attorney's Office. Id. Explaining that decision, the Cook County State's Attorney issued a press release stating that the investigation by David Protess and his team “involved a series of alarming tactics that were not only coercive and absolutely unacceptable by law enforcement standards, they were potentially in violation of Mr. Simon's constitutionally protected rights.” Id. Simon's lawsuit against Protess, Northwestern, and others followed a few months later. Id.

         IV. The Pending Motions

         The Simon litigation bears heavily on Protess's motion for a protective order in this case, as he seeks to preclude Defendants from using in Simon any discovery they take from Protess in this action. (Doc. 82, at 7-9.) But that's not all. Protess also seeks to limit the scope of his deposition in this case “to questions surrounding the investigation of Stanley Wrice's case” (as opposed to any other investigations in which Protess participated, including Simon's), and to prohibit dissemination of his deposition testimony, and of any “private correspondence” produced in response to the subpoenas Defendants have served, “beyond the instant litigation.” (Id. at 17.) In support of these requests, Protess explains that Defendants' attorney here (Andrew Hale) also represents Simon in his lawsuit against Protess, causing Protess to fear that discovery sought from him in this action will be used in Simon. (Id. at 7-9.) He also explains that Mr. Hale has produced a documentary-style film about Simon's conviction and exoneration ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.