A Chicago man convicted of murder and sentenced to 76 years behind bars has had his conviction overturned and will be retried after a key witness was revealed as legally blind.
Darien Harris was an 18-year-old high school student when he was charged with murder after a shooting at a South Side gas station in June 2011.
The shooting left one man dead and another seriously injured in an ambush style attack.
Harris, now 30, has always maintained his innocence, claiming he was at home watching LeBron James play in the NBA finals between the Miami Heat and the Dallas Mavericks at the time of the shooting.
Dexter Saffold, A passerby at the time of the shooting however, identified Harris as the shooter.
It has now been revealed that key eyewitness was registered as legally blind due to his glaucoma which was not disclosed during the trial.
Darien Harris, 30, was convicted for the 2011 murder of Rondell Moore, 23, and sentenced to 76 years in prison in 2014
The station’s surveillance system did not capture the shooting, but prosecutors said the video did show an individual walking away from a black Lexus
It has now been revealed that key eyewitness was registered as legally blind due to his glaucoma which was not disclosed during the trial
Harris’ attorney, Lauren Myerscough-Mueller, who said in court filings that Harris was wrongfully convicted based on mistaken eyewitness testimonies and without physical evidence tying him to the crime.
On Tuesday, Cook County Judge Diana Kenworthy vacated Harris’ conviction and sentence, saying simply: ‘So we are going to start over.’
Harris will be retried on charges of first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder and aggravated battery with a firearm.
The judge, citing the serious nature of the charges, declined to free Harris while he awaits his new trial.
Shackled at the ankles and dressed in blue jail garb, Harris did not speak during the brief court hearing.
He waved to his wife and mother and an uncle seated in the courtroom gallery before being led back to jail.
Nakesha Harris, Darien’s mother told reporters after the hearing she had hoped her son would be released without being retried.
The defendant’s wife, Jessica Harris, told reporters: ‘I thought I would have him home for the holidays, so it is in a way disappointing to see that they’re retying him.’
Rondell Moore, 23, was shot dead after pulling into a BP gas station in Woodlawn because of car troubles after 8 p.m. on June 7, 2011
‘They’re wasting taxpayers’ hard-earned money,’ she said.
‘We’re retrying a case with no physical (or) DNA evidence. All the witnesses recanted (and) changed stories, and the judge based his verdict off the testimony of a blind man.’
The defendant’s wife, Jessica Harris, told reporters: ‘I thought I would have him home for the holidays, so it is in a way disappointing to see that they’re retrying him.’
‘But I’m going to keep a positive attitude that he’ll be home soon.’
Rondell Moore, 23, pulled into a BP gas station in Woodlawn because of car troubles after 8 pm on June 7, 2011.
Moore was assisted by a local mechanic who arrived at the station on his bike shortly afterward.
Moore was shot three times and died in a nearby parking lot as he attempted to flee.
The 51-year-old mechanic survived suffering bullet wounds to his back and arm.
The station’s surveillance system did not capture the shooting, but prosecutors said the video did show an individual walking away from a black Lexus and around the gas station building toward the area where the shooting occurred, then running away shortly afterward.
The video showed a man whose thin build and short hairstyle generally fit Harris, but the suspect’s face was not visible.
Days after the shooting Harris was arrested after a witness, Dexter Saffold, said he witnessed the shooting while on his way home from a fast-food restaurant.
Saffold picked Harris out of a police lineup and also identified him in court during the trial.
Cook County Judge Nicholas Ford said he based his ruling primarily on Saffold’s testimony.
Prosecutors pledged to pursue another trial and maintain they have credible evidence from other eyewitnesses that point to Harris’ guilt.
Myerscough-Mueller alleged police misconduct played a role in those identifications.
Harris is due back in court on December 19, when a trial date may be set.