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Illinois Supreme Court justices questioned prosecutors Thursday about evidence in the rape conviction of a man who says he was tortured into confessing by Chicago police officers.

In oral arguments in a case with potentially far-reaching impact on how Illinois deals with police torture cases — and one that could lay the groundwork for similar appeals by as many as 20 other inmates — prosecutors argued that the state had enough evidence to convict inmate Stanley Wrice without the confession he claims to have given only after being tortured by officers under the command of notorious Lt. Jon Burge 30 years ago.

But the justices pressed Special Prosecutor Myles O'Rourke about the strength of the state's other evidence, noting that there was no DNA or fingerprints introduced at trial when Wrice was convicted.

Wrice is asking the high court for a new hearing on his long-standing torture claims. The outcome of the case is being closely monitored by about 20 other inmates who say Burge's officers forced them to confess to crimes they didn't commit, and lawyers and experts say the case could lay the groundwork for similar appeals by those inmates.

In her appearance before the court, Wrice attorney Heidi Lambros made an impassioned plea to the justices to take a stand against "the very bad blight from Jon Burge and these torture cases."

"This court should not tolerate the torture of its citizens within its walls," Lambros said.

Burge is serving a 4 ½-year sentence in federal prison following his conviction last year of perjury and obstruction of justice for lying in a civil suit when he said he'd never witnessed or participated in the torture of suspects.


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