Man Convicted of Murder Due to Blind Witness’s Testimony Sues City

Judge's gavel and weight scale. Law and justice system.

In 2011, while Darien Harris was a high school student in Chicago, he was 18 years old and faced charges related to a man’s murder at a gas station. The evidence of an eyewitness, who was subsequently determined to be legally blind, was crucial in his eventual conviction for murder.

Last year, Harris had his conviction overturned after serving almost a decade in prison. He is now 31 years old and has filed a lawsuit against seven officers, the Chicago Police Department, and the city of Chicago.

The eyewitness lied about his visual problems and had severe glaucoma.

When Harris was released, he was thirty years old.

Harris, a Black man, is named as one of several victims of “systemic police misconduct” at the Area Two Police Headquarters in Chicago in the lawsuit. The lawsuit claims that the police trumped up evidence, including fake witness statements, and used tactics such as threats, fact-feeding, coercion, and promises of leniency.

It also claims that the police concealed the fact that the crucial witness was visually impaired.

Harris’s attorney said when Harris was in prison, he and his supporters hired a private investigator. The investigator found a 2003 housing discrimination case in which a witness claimed to have glaucoma. Along with the witness’s declaration of being legally blind and permanently incapacitated, the lawsuit included a letter from the witness’s doctor. The lawsuit asserts that the police were aware of his disability.

Harris accused police of fabricating evidence and pressuring witnesses into giving false statements in a federal civil rights case that he filed in April. He is still having a hard time getting his life back together.

He said no one was going to assist him financially, and he still couldn’t obtain a good job because he was viewed as a convict. 

He said something was taken from him, and he doesn’t think it will ever be the same.

The legally blind witness positively identified Harris in court after selecting him from a police lineup. There were gunshots, and the witness observed someone point a pistol as he was riding his motorized scooter close to the gas station, according to his testimony. He went on to say that the gunman had collided with him.

According to court records, however, the man’s doctor had already declared him legally blind nine years before the incident.

Harris was not the gunman, according to testimony from a gas station attendant.

A 2017 Justice Department investigation found that the department frequently violated the constitutional rights of residents, predominantly Black and Latino ones.