Wrongly convicted man tries to clear name

December 2, 2011 3:01:40 PM PST
A judge denied a request by Robert Veal, who was wrongly convicted of the 1991 murder of a Dixmoor girl, to toss out that conviction.

It's another setback for Veal, one of five men wrongfully convicted in the murder, also called the Dixmoor 5. Veal is trying to clear his name.

"I think I need a chance. I can't do nothing with my life either," Veal said. Veal, 34, who now lives in Minnesota, said the murder conviction keeps him from finding work.

During a police investigation, Veal and Shainne Sharp confessed to the 1991 murder of 14-year-old Catersa Matthews. They then pled guilty and served the time, completing their sentences nearly a decade ago.

Because they of that, Cook County Circuit Judge Michele Simmons questioned whether their convictions could be vacated. She suggested he ask the governor for a pardon.

"You can't get your conviction vacated because you already served your time, so you're out of luck. Or you didn't come forward fast enough. So you're out of luck. You may be innocent, but there's nothing we can do to help you. It's ridiculous," Stuart Chanen, Veal's attorney, said. Chanen filed a post-conviction petition asking the judge to throw out the conviction because of new evidence.

On Friday, three of the Dixmoor 5 -- Robert Taylor, Jonathan Barr and James Harden -- stood in support of Veal.

"I do not feel ill-will towards him," Barr said of Veal, who testified against him in 1991. "Yes, he did but that's life."

Last month, Taylor, Barr and Harden were exonerated and set free -- after spending almost 20 years in prison. DNA linked the rape and murder of Matthews to a convicted sex offender.

Sharp is jailed in Indiana on an unrelated drug charge.

Veal's attorney said they plan to exhaust all legal channels before exploring any other avenues.

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