Cook County Judge Overturns Murder Conviction After Key Eyewitness Revealed To Be Legally Blind

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Mariane Angela Contributor
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A Cook County judge overturned a murder conviction Tuesday after it was revealed that the witness was legally blind, the Chicago Sun Times reported.

Darien Harris’ 12-year-old murder conviction was overturned due to the revelation that the key eyewitness was legally blind, according to the Chicago Sun Times. Thirty-year-old Harris had been serving time for the 2011 killing of Rondell Moore at a BP gas station in Woodlawn, Illinois. Despite the overturned conviction, Harris remains in custody since prosecutors are gearing up for a retrial.

Judge Diana Kenworthy presided over the decision to vacate Harris’ conviction. She cited the gravity of the charges in her decision to keep him in custody pending the upcoming trial, according to the Chicago Sun Times. Harris awaits his next court appearance on Dec. 19, with the prospect of a new trial looming on the horizon. (RELATED: Mexico Releases Navy Veteran After 13 Years Of Wrongful Incarceration)

The case against Harris initially hinged on the testimony of Dexter Saffold, an eyewitness who claimed to have seen the crime unfold from close range, the Chicago Sun Times reported. Saffold’s statement played a crucial role in Harris’ 2011 conviction, where he opted for a bench trial under Judge Nicholas Ford. Ford sentenced Harris to a 76-year prison term.

Documents showed that Saffold’s vision impairment had been officially recognized since 2002, the Chicago Sun Times reported.

In response to these developments, Harris’ legal team appealed for a review by the Cook County state’s attorney’s conviction integrity unit, according to the Chicago Sun Times. Prosecutors maintained their belief in Harris’ guilt, setting the stage for a new trial.

A second witness named Aaron Jones initially linked Harris to the crime scene but later retracted his statement, the Chicago Sun Times reported. He claimed he was coerced by the police. Moreover, a gas station clerk was allegedly pressured by police and failed to identify Harris as the shooter despite being shown his photo prior to a lineup.