Convicted Man Gets New Trial After Witness Was Legally Blind

Darien Harris had his murder conviction overturned by a Cook County Judge

A man who was convicted of a 2011 murder and has been in jail for 12 years is getting set for a new trial after finding out that one of the witnesses in the case was legally blind when he testified.

According to The Chicago Tribune, Darien Harris had his murder conviction overturned by a Cook County judge on Dec. 5, after finding out that the main eyewitness to the murder was discovered by the defense team to be legally blind. Harris, who was 18 at the time, was found guilty in the fatal shooting of 23-year-old Rondell Moore. The killing took place at a South Side BP gas station in Woodlawn on June 7, 2011.

Prosecutors charged the then-high school senior in an ambush-style shooting that left Moore dead and another person seriously injured. Harris has always maintained his innocence, claiming he was watching the NBA finals between the Miami Heat and the Dallas Mavericks. He was found guilty in 2014 and was given a prison sentence of 76 years.

Harris was initially charged with first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, and aggravated battery with a firearm.

Over four years ago, at the urging of Harris’ family, the conviction integrity unit of Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx decided to take another look at the case. They stated, among other arguments, that the key witness did not disclose to the judge that he was legally blind because of his glaucoma. After looking into it, Cook County prosecutors decided to vacate his conviction and sentence, but he’d have to face a new trial.

On Nov. 5, Cook County Judge Diana Kenworthy granted Harris’s request by saying, “So we are going to start over.”

Nakesha Harris, who is the mother of Darien, expressed disappointment in prosecutors wanting to retry the case instead of just dismissing the charges.

“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.”

A statement put out by prosecutors said they weren’t opposed to vacating Harris’ conviction “due to shifts in witness testimony and available evidence, in the interest of justice and to ensure that the principles of fairness and due process are upheld.”

“This decision is not made lightly, but with a profound sense of responsibility towards the integrity of our legal system and the community we serve, and securing justice for the victim,” the statement read. “We are committed to a fair and just resolution of this case, guided by the evidence and the law.”

The defendant will be back in court on Dec. 19.

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