Darien Harris was sentenced to 76 years in prison for the 2011 murder of Rondell and was convicted the same year. Prosecutors claim that Harris shot and killed Moore at a BP gas station in Woodlawn, Illinois. Prosecutors’ case was largely based on the testimony of Dexter Saffold, who said that he was in close proximity to the incident when it occurred.
Harris has already served out 12 years of his sentence at the time the judge overturned the verdict, but he will not be walking free anytime soon. Prosecutors say that they are working on a new trial on the case, and Harris will remain in jail for the time being. Harris was only 18 when he was sentenced to prison.
During the initial trial, Harris opted for the judge would hear his case and determine the verdict and sentence, instead of presenting it to a jury. Judge Nicholas Ford was the presiding judge at the time, and despite the lack of evidence linking Harris to the crime, Ford made the sentence determination based on “compelling” eyewitness testimony.
According to Judge Ford’s decision, he determined that Saffold was an “honest witness,” adding that Saffold’s testimony was “unblemished.”
However, documents have surfaced showing that Saffold has been declared legally blind by doctors since 2002, and was suffering from advanced glaucoma at the time of the shooting. Saffold told police and prosecutors that he was only 20 feet away from the shooting. He claimed that he was on his motorized scooter at the time, traveling home. Safford told investigators that Harris even bumped into him as he ran away from the scene of the crime. He identified Harris as the shooter during the investigation and during the trial.
Lawyers for the Exoneration Project, which currently represents Harris, welcomed the decision to overturn their client’s conviction. “We look forward to continuing to fight for his freedom,” the organization said in a statement posted online.
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