October 25, 2012
Five suburban Chicago men who were wrongfully convicted of murder as teenagers said on Wednesday October 17 that they are suing local and state police, claiming police officers framed them.
The men were sent to prison for the 1991 rape and murder of 14-year-old Cateresa Matthews. They claim Dixmoor police and Illinois State Police coerced false confessions, withheld evidence and fabricated witness testimony.
The two lawsuits claim that DNA evidence has identified a convicted sex offender for the murder who has no connection to the five men originally convicted _ Robert Taylor, Jonathan Barr, James Harden, Shainne Sharp and Robert Veal. The convicted sex offender has not been charged with the murder, according to the lawsuits.
Taylor, Harden and Barr were freed in 2011 after 19 years in prison. Sharp and Veal were released after 10 years of imprisonment.
“We went through a lot,” an emotional Taylor said. “This one incident destroyed so many lives.”
According to the lawsuits, at least one of the three who confessed was beaten by officers and all those who confessed were coerced and illegally taken advantage of by the officers who were under pressure to solve the case. The officers also falsified witness evidence to secure convictions, the lawsuits claim.
The men’s attorney, Flint Taylor, who isn’t related to Robert Taylor, said important questions need to be asked.
“Why do these cases happen? Why do young African-American men go to prison for crimes they did not commit?” he said.
Telephone calls to Dixmoor police and Illinois State Police officials for comment weren't immediately returned. One lawsuit was filed against Dixmoor police, while the other is against the state police. All five men are plaintiffs on both lawsuits.