After spending almost two decades in jail for a rape and murder he didn’t commit, Robert Taylor became a free man on November 3rd when he walked out of an Illinois prison. He described the feeling as, “Beautiful.”
“I’m still getting used to it,” he told The Associated Press by phone shortly after leaving Stateville Correctional Center. “I knew it would come.”
Taylor, 34, along with James Harden and Jonathan Barr, had been serving prison time for the 1991 rape and murder of a 14-year-old Chicago girl. Their convictions were vacated after DNA evidence linked another man to the crime. Five young men were convicted in total; prosecutors said they planned to vacate the convictions of the two others who’ve already served out their prison sentences.
“It’s truly unexplainable,” said Taylor’s attorney Josh Tepfer who works for Northwestern University School of Law’s Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth. “It’s one of the most tragic injustices in this state’s history.”
The case, referred to as “The Dixmoor Five,” is one among dozens of wrongful conviction cases in Illinois made public in recent years. Allegations of torture and coerced confessions by Chicago police prompted then-Republican Gov. George Ryan in 2000 to impose a moratorium on Illinois’ death penalty. Earlier this year, Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn signed legislation abolishing the death penalty in Illinois.