News

Man who served 12 years for murder after blind eyewitness testified against him files lawsuit

A Chicago man, who was sentenced to 76 years in prison for murder after evidence from a legally blind eyewitness was used against him, has filed a lawsuit against the city and police department.

According to The Associated Press, Darien Harris had served a total of 12 years in prison for the 2011 murder when he was ultimately freed in December. Harris was convicted in 2014, and his eventual release came after The Exoneration Project proved the legally blind eyewitness had advanced glaucoma and provided false information about his eyesight.

As previously reported by Face2Face Africa, Harris was 18 when he was charged in connection with the 2011 South Side gas station shooting that killed one and injured another. But Harris, who maintained his innocence, claimed he was home watching LeBron James in the NBA finals game with the Miami Heat and the Dallas Mavericks during the 2011 shooting for which he was convicted.

A key eyewitness, Dexter Saffold, who was a passerby at the time of the shooting, identified Harris as the culprit in a police lineup and also maintained that stance in court. It was ultimately revealed that Saffold was legally blind due to glaucoma but didn’t disclose this during the trial, as reported by Daily Mail.

Saffold was said to be suffering from diabetes, and Harris’ trial attorney asked him if that condition impacted his eyesight. And though he responded in the affirmative, Saffold said he did not have issues with his vision, per The Associated Press. Court records, however, revealed that Saffold’s doctor had declared him legally blind 9 years prior to the fatal shooting. 

A gas station attendant also took the stand and said Harris wasn’t the culprit. Harris in the April lawsuit accused police of “egregious misconduct” and fabricating “evidence, including false witness statements and identifications through such tactics as coercion, threats, fact-feeding, and promises of leniency,” The Chicago Tribune reported. 

The plaintiff also alleges his case was not “an isolated incident” as the Area 2 headquarters has “part of patterns and practices of systemic police misconduct.” Harris told the news outlet he’s currently facing challenges with regard to getting back on his feet.

“I don’t have any financial help. I’m still (treated like) a felon, so I can’t get a good job. It’s hard for me to get into school,” Harris, who is seeking compensation, said. “I’ve been so lost. … I feel like they took a piece of me that is hard for me to get back.”

What happened?

On June 7, 2011, Rondell Moore, 23, sought help at a Woodlawn BP gas station due to car troubles. A local mechanic arrived on a bike to assist, but Moore was tragically shot three times and died while trying to escape. The 51-year-old mechanic survived with bullet wounds to his back and arm.

Despite the absence of surveillance footage capturing the shooting, prosecutors revealed that a video did depict an individual walking away from a black Lexus, circling the gas station building, and subsequently running away from the area where the shooting took place. The video revealed a man with a physique and hairstyle resembling Harris, but his face wasn’t visible.

Shortly after the shooting, Harris was arrested based on witness Saffold’s account, who claimed to have seen the incident on his way home from a fast-food restaurant. Saffold identified Harris in a police lineup and reiterated this in court, forming the basis of Cook County Judge Nicholas Ford’s ruling. But the judge did not know Saffold’s health status as a legally blind person.

Harris’s attorney, Myerscough-Mueller, alleged police misconduct influenced these identifications.

Francis Akhalbey

A reader once told me I lack the emotional maturity to cope with mythological breasts. I support Manchester United, by the way. And L.A. Lakers.

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