Exonerations delayed in 1991 rape, murder

November 14, 2011 10:02:40 AM PST
Two men who spent years in prison had hoped to have their names cleared Monday after being wrongly convicted of the 1991 rape and murder of a Dixmoor teenager.

DNA evidence previously proved that five men convicted were not connected to the 1991 Dixmoor crime. Three were granted new trials and eventually released from prison. Two others were already finished serving ten-year sentences and out on good behavior when the evidence was tested.

Robert Veal was just 15 at the time Cateresa Matthews, 14, disappeared walking home from school. Her body was found two weeks later. She had been sexually assaulted and shot.

Veal and four other teenagers were convicted of her murder. In 2009, attorneys for the men filed a motion to test DNA. That evidence pointed to another suspect. Earlier this month, a judge vacated the convictions of the three men still behind bars serving life without parole.

Veal and Shianne Sharp have been out of prison for ten years. Veal said he has had trouble finding a job since he was released.

But the judge denied the exoneration motion Monday, saying defense attorneys and the state have to use different legal procedures to vacate the convictions of Veal and Sharp. The judge had logistical problems with the motion.

"Ten days ago, the same judge vacated the convictions of three other defendants. Those three went to trial in 1994 and were convicted after trial. The hangup that the judge has is that Mr. Sharp and Mr. Veal pled guilty. As a procedural matter, she thinks that has a different effect on how their convictions can now be vacated," said Veal's defense attorney Stuart Chanen.

Chanen said the delay will last until at least December 2.

"Hopefully not beyond December 2," he said. "It will depend on whether the government is prepared to step up and admit some of the things that went wrong in this case."

Of the three men who served longer sentences, Robert Taylor was the first to be released. He walked out of prison November 3.

"It has been a hard run. But I made it," he said.

James Hardin was released a day later, and his brother, Jonathan Barr, was released the following day.

All three served almost 20 years in prison.

"When the DNA excluded them, and they should have known right then and there, these confessions were no good. But obviously, today is a day to rejoice," said Joshua Tepper.

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