On the eve of Thanksgiving, Gov. Pat Quinn granted pardons to 126 convicts, including Robert Taylor, a member of the Dixmoor Five. All five were cleared in a 1991 murder, but Taylor still had a felony conviction on his record for skipping out on his trial.
Taylor was one of five teenagers who served more than 70 years collectively in the rape and murder of 14-year-old Cateresa Matthews.
Matthews disappeared after leaving her grandmother’s Dixmoor home in November 1991. Weeks later, she was found dead in a field near Interstate 57.
Authorities rounded up the five teens and coerced confessions out of two of them — Robert Veal and Shainne Sharp — who implicated Taylor, Jonathan Barr and James Harden, even though they maintained their innocence.
All five were convicted, though Sharp and Veal served lesser sentences.
Eventually, DNA evidence cleared them all, and a judge vacated their convictions in 2011. Taylor, Barr and Harden — who were still serving their sentences — were released from prison.
But Taylor still had a felony on his record for skipping out on his trial. At the time, Taylor, then 19, was free on bond. He had shown up to all of his court dates, including the first five days of the trial, but didn’t show up for the rest.
A jury convicted him in absentia. Two months later, he was found hiding out at a friend’s house, which led to a felony conviction — expunged by Quinn’s pardon — for violating the terms of his bond.
The pardon and the expunging of his record could help Taylor look for work, a place to live or successfully navigate any other application process in which criminal history is reviewed.
Also among those granted pardons Wednesday was Elizabeth Dworzanski, who served time in prison for abducting her two young sons from her estranged husband at a Northwest Side home in 1988.
Dworzanski enlisted the help of a friend and a Department of Children and Family Services caseworker to pull off the abduction, the Sun-Times reported at the time.
Not everyone was as fortunate as Taylor and Dworzanski, though.
In a release, Quinn’s office said the governor declined to grant pardons to 185 others.
Some of the pending pardon requests date back to 2005, during the Blagojevich administration.