Tue | Jul 23, 2024

Man convicted of Chicago murder based on blind witness’ testimony sues city, police

Published:Monday | May 27, 2024 | 4:36 PM
Darien Harris walks toward his wife’s vehicle outside Cook County Jail after prosecutors dropped charges against Harris for a fatal 2011 shooting, December 19, 2023, Cook County, Illinois. LaRiviere/Chicago Sun-Times via AP, File)

CHICAGO (AP) — A Chicago man convicted of murder based in part on testimony from a legally blind eyewitness is suing the city and the police department.

A judge convicted Darien Harris in 2014 in connection with a fatal shooting at a South Side gas station in 2011.

He was 12 years into a 76-year prison sentence when he was freed in December after The Exoneration Project showed that the eyewitness had advanced glaucoma and lied about his eyesight issues. Harris was 30 years old when he went free.

Harris filed a federal civil rights lawsuit in April alleging police fabricated evidence and coerced witnesses into making false statements, the Chicago Tribune reported Monday. He told the newspaper that he is still struggling to put his life back together.

“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,” he said. “I've been so lost. … I feel like they took a piece of me that is hard for me to get back.”

A message The Associated Press left on the city's Law Department main line seeking comment Monday wasn't immediately returned. The department provides attorneys for the city, its departments and its employees.

Harris was an 18-year-old high school senior when he was arrested. The legally blind eyewitness picked Harris out of a police lineup and identified him in court. The eyewitness testified that he was riding his motorised scooter near the gas station when he heard gunshots and saw a person aiming a handgun. He also added that the shooter bumped into him.

Harris' trial attorney asked the witness if his diabetes affected his vision. He said yes but denied he had vision problems. But the man's doctor deemed him legally blind nine years before the incident, court records show.

A gas station attendant also testified that Harris wasn't the shooter.

The Exoneration Project has helped clear more than 200 people since 2009, including a dozen in Chicago's Cook County in 2023 alone.

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