Chicago man convicted of murder based on blind witness' testimony files lawsuit against city, police

A Chicago man convicted of murder a decade ago based in part on testimony from an eyewitness who is legally blind is suing the city and the police department.

Darien Harris was convicted by a judge in 2014 in connection with a 2011 fatal shooting at a South Side gas station. He was 12 years into a 76-year prison sentence when he was released 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 was freed from prison.

In April, Harris filed a federal civil rights lawsuit accusing police of fabricating evidence and coercing witnesses into making false statements, according to The Chicago Tribune. He told the newspaper that he is still struggling to put his life back on track.


Chicago Police Department HQ exteriors

Darien Harris, who was convicted of murder a decade ago based in part on testimony from an eyewitness who is legally blind, is suing Chicago and its police department. (Chicago Tribune via Getty Images)

“I don’t have any financial help. I’m still (treated like) a felon, so I can’t get a good job,” he said. “It’s hard for me to get into school. I’ve been so lost. … I feel like they took a piece of me that is hard for me to get back.”

Harris, an 18-year-old high school senior when he was arrested, was picked out of a police lineup and identified in court by the legally blind eyewitness.

The eyewitness testified that he was riding his motorized scooter near the gas station when he heard gunshots and observed a person aiming a handgun, adding that the shooter bumped into him.


Chicago Police cruiser

Darien Harris was 12 years into a 76-year prison sentence when he was released in December. (Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Harris’ trial attorney asked the eyewitness if his diabetes affected his vision. He said yes but claimed he did not have vision problems. The eyewitness’ doctor determined he was legally blind nine years before the incident, according to court records.

A gas station attendant also testified in court that Harris was not the shooter.

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

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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