Federal juries penalize Chicago in lawsuits against police

Separate federal juries on Tuesday found that Chicago police officers wrongly indulged in conduct that resulted in the fatal shooting of a suspect and the false confession and imprisonment of an alleged rape suspect.

A federal jury hearing a lawsuit filed against the city of Chicago found that Sgt. John Poulos committed a battery when he shot Kajuan Raye in the back as they ran through an alley in November 2016. However, the jury ruled Poulos, who claimed Raye pointed a gun at him, did not use excessive force.

Plaintiff’s attorney Michael Oppenheimer said the jury’s decision in favor of his client on excessive force was a clear message that Poulos’ version of events didn’t add up.

Poulos and his attorneys refused to comment on the jury’s decision as they left U.S. District Court.

Poulos was chasing Raye after a report of a battery in progress. A gun found under bushes in front of a house and recovered by police three months after the shooting was linked to Raye. Chicago’s Civilian Office of Police Accountability concluded a combination of circumstantial, physical, testimonial, and social media evidence make it “likely and reasonable” the gun was in Raye’s possession at the time of the incident.

Raye’s family conceded at trial he was armed, but they argued Poulos lied to investigators when he said the teen pointed the gun at him.

Raye was the second African American man shot by Poulos, who is white. In 2013, Poulos was off-duty when he shot and killed Rickey Rozelle, a 28-year-old burglary suspect who was unarmed.

Another jury awarded $5.2 million to Stanley Wrice, who claims two now retired Chicago police officers beat him into confessing he had a role in a September 1982 gang rape and assault. Sgt. John Byrne and Peter Dignan worked under notorious Police Cmdr. Jon Burge at the time of Wrice’s arrest. Burge was imprisoned for lying about torturing black criminal suspects.

Wrice’s attorney, Jennifer Bonjean, told jurors her client was convicted in a “grave miscarriage of justice” that took decades to be corrected while the real perpetrators of the crime got off with light sentences. The assault took place in the attic of Wrice’s home. He contends that while he saw the victim on a bed with several others, he insists he didn’t see, hear or suspect anything was amiss.

Andrew Hale, representing Byrne and Dignan, said Wrice was ``properly charged” and ``properly convicted.”

A judge in 2013 granted Wrice a new criminal trial in December 2013 after witnesses recanted their testimony. However, prosecutors say they couldn’t prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt.