Updated 10/17/12 – 4:34 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — Once, they were teenagers — convicted of the 1991 rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl in Dixmoor. Now the “Dixmoor Five” are adults: freed from prison by DNA, and they are suing authorities who investigated the case.
Four of the Dixmoor Five stood with their lawyers on Wednesday to announce the filing of federal lawsuits against Dixmoor Police and Illinois State Police officers.
“I spent 20 years locked up for a crime I didn’t commit,” said James Harden, who is one of the five. “I come home to nothing, for something I didn’t do. I just want the people to do the right thing, whatever that is. God bless you.”
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Steve Miller Reports
CBS 2’s Suzanne Le Mignot reports all five men are represented by civil rights attorneys, pro bono. The men said they hope their case paves the way for standards to be put in place so lessons are learned for future cases.
“I’m thankful that there is a God in heaven, and he allowed truth to come to the light,” said Jonathan Barr, who was arrested at the age of 14, for a crime he always said he never committed.
In 1991, Barr, Harden, and three other teens were convicted in the rape and murder of 14-year-old Cateresa Matthews in Dixmoor.
“Cateresa was a great girl. I went to school with her, walked home with her almost every day. You know, and to be accused of killing her, it’s extremely hurtful,” Barr said.
New DNA evidence showed Barr and the other men were wrongfully convicted. They were released from prison last year.
That DNA evidence linked another man to the murder. That man is behind bars for another crime.
On Wednesday, attorneys for the Dixmoor Five announced the filing of a federal lawsuit against the Illinois State Police, the Dixmoor Police Department, and the Village of Dixmoor.
“The DNA has flat-out proved that all the confessions were false, all the statements, all the deals implicating each other, it’s all 100 percent false,” said attorney Jon Loevy.
Two of the men served 10 years in prison. Robert Taylor, Barr and Harden spent nearly two decades behind bars. While in prison, Barr and Harden’s mother, father and grandmother died.
“I want justice for myself, and my brother,” Harden said.
All of the men said they’re working on rebuilding their lives, and looking forward to the future.
Taylor’s son Amir was born two days ago.
“He gave me back something I thought I lost. He’s my purpose,” Taylor said.
Prosecutors said the man who has been linked to the murder through new DNA evidence has not been charged in the crime.