I am thinking about freedom tonight. What is it even? Is it from something? Is it to something? Stanley Wrice spent 31 years locked up in a tiny cell for a crime he did not commit. He was released Wednesday. He was freed Wednesday. He was exonerated Thursday, meaning he was returned to his prior state of innocence, which the state wrongfully took from him, but which, really, literally, he never left. So what has he been returned to? Tomorrow he begins work as the Outreach Coordinator for us at the Chicago Innocence Project. He also wants to begin doing prison ministry as soon as possible. A reporter asked him wasn't he afraid to go back into the very prison where he was held for four years longer than Nelson Mandela served. Stanley said no, he was not afraid, because he knows now he can always leave. And because he knows there are men inside there who he can help. There's a profound freedom of mind and heart in that. Grace.
And I am thinking a lot about Eric Caine, who spent 25 years in prison for a crime he did not commit, and who is so generous with his wisdom and resources and spirit. And, of course, I am thinking about and feeling the deep, deep loss of Anthony Mckinney, who never got his chance at the freedom that Eric Caine now has, that Stanley Wrice is just now getting. I am thinking about the families and loved ones of these good men, what they have lost and what they have found. The family of Anthony Mckinney has been so full of grace in the face of such a profound outrage and tragedy. Being with Eric and Stanley, who turn from bitterness and seek not one more second of imprisonment. I will not give away one more moment of my life to pain or anger or fear, they say. I don't have words to describe the privilege it is to be beside these men and their families, during this fragile, precious time of renewal and possibility.
*******It took 30 seconds to undo 31 years of injustice.*******
The Chicago innocence center is thrilled to finally, finally see the name Stanley Wrice on The National Registry of Exonerations. After 31 years in prison, all charges were dismissed this morning. Moments after prosecutors told the court they would not seek to retry Stanley Wrice and the judge wasted no time ruling "charges dismissed," Stanley Wrice and his lawyers turned to walk to the door. There was this surreal moment where Stanley moved toward the lead prosecutor and in one fluid motion, extended his hand to the prosecutor. The prosecutor immediately took Stanley's hand and said, "congratulations," to which Stanley Wrice replied, "thank you." -Pamela Cytrynbaum
Stanley Wrice goes to hug his daughter Gail Lewis as he is released from the Pontiac Correctional Center in Pontiac, Ill., today. Wrice, who has spent over 30 years in prison, was convicted of rape, deviate sexual assault, armed violence and unlawful restraint and sentenced to 100 years in prison in 1983. On Tuesday a judge granted Wrice a new trial. Michael Tercha, Chicago Tribune / December 11, 2013