The “Dixmoor Five” was the name the media assigned to five African American teens in Dixmoor, Ill. who were falsely convicted of the 1991 rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl. Jonathan Barr, James Harden, Robert Taylor, Robert Lee Veal, and Shainne Sharp were all between the ages of 14 and 16 at the time of their arrest.
During high pressure interviews, without parents or guardians present, three of the five teens confessed leading to convictions for all five. The teens later claimed that those confessions were coerced, that they were physically abused and threatened during their interrogations. Veal and Sharp pleaded guilty and testified against the others in exchange for 20-year sentences. Both men have since recanted their testimony.
Three others maintained their innocence. Harden and Taylor were tried together, convicted, and sentenced to 80 years in prison. Barr was tried separately and sentenced to 85 years.
In 2011, DNA tests connected semen on the victim to Willie Randolph, a convicted sex offender on parole at the time of the crime. Randolph was subsequently charged for the rape and murder of the victim, Cateresa Matthews.
A suit filed by the men alleges police withheld exculpatory evidence, including the DNA, from their defense teams. The convictions of the Dixmoor Five were vacated in November 2011, and those remaining incarcerated were released. In 2014, they reached a wrongful conviction settlement with the state of Illinois for $40 million, the largest wrongful conviction settlement in state history.