Man sues city and police after being convicted of Chicago murder based on blind witness’ testimony

A man from Chicago, who was found guilty of murder, is now suing the city and the police department. The conviction was primarily based on the testimony of a legally blind eyewitness.

In 2014, Darien Harris was found guilty for his involvement in a deadly shooting at a gas station on the South Side. He had been serving a 76-year prison sentence for the past 12 years. However, in December, he was released from prison after The Exoneration Project presented evidence that the eyewitness, who had claimed to have impaired vision due to advanced glaucoma, had lied about his eyesight problems. At the time of his release, Harris was 30 years old.

In April, Harris took legal action by filing a federal civil rights lawsuit, claiming that the police had manipulated evidence and pressured witnesses into providing false statements. According to the Chicago Tribune, he revealed that he is still facing challenges in rebuilding his life.

“I don’t receive any financial assistance. I am still treated as a felon, which hinders me from securing a decent job. It’s difficult for me to pursue higher education,” he expressed. “I have been feeling incredibly lost… I feel like a part of me has been taken away, making it challenging to regain.”

The Associated Press reached out to the city’s Law Department for comment, but they did not immediately respond. The Law Department is responsible for providing legal representation to the city, its departments, and employees.

When Harris was arrested, he was just an 18-year-old high school senior. In court, a legally blind eyewitness identified Harris in a police lineup and testified against him. According to the eyewitness, he was riding his motorized scooter near the gas station when he heard gunshots and noticed a person aiming a handgun. He even mentioned that the shooter accidentally bumped into him.

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During Harris’ trial, his attorney inquired about the impact of the witness’s diabetes on his vision. Although the witness acknowledged the presence of diabetes, he denied experiencing any vision-related issues. However, according to court records, the witness had been declared legally blind by his doctor nine years prior to the incident.

During the trial, a gas station attendant provided testimony that contradicted the belief that Harris was the shooter. The attendant’s statement served as evidence to challenge the prevailing assumption.

The Exoneration Project has been instrumental in exonerating over 200 individuals since 2009, with a notable accomplishment of clearing a dozen individuals in Chicago’s Cook County in 2023 alone.

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