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Man's Murder Conviction Vacated, Key Eyewitness Turned Out to Be Legally Blind

The family of Darien Harris maintains he was home watching basketball when the killing took place

<p>Provided by Nakesha Harris</p> Darien Harris

Provided by Nakesha Harris

Darien Harris

A Chicago man’s murder conviction has been vacated after he spent 12 years in prison where the sole eyewitness to testify against him turned out to be legally blind, according to ABC 7 Chicago, The Chicago Sun Times and CBS Chicago.

Darien Harris, 30, was convicted of murder in connection with the 2011 death of Rondell Moore, who was fatally shot at a gas station in Chicago. Harris was sentenced to 76 years in prison, the outlets reported.

On Tuesday, a Cook County judge overturned the conviction which sent Harris to prison when he was 18 and about to graduate from high school, ABC Chicago reported.

Dexter Saffold, the eyewitness whose testimony was crucial in the conviction, was later found to have been legally blind during the fatal shooting, according to multiple reports.

In a 2003 housing discrimination lawsuit, Saffold was said to be legally blind with “markedly reduced vision, especially at night,” The Washington Post reported in 2019, citing a doctor’s note attached to the lawsuit.

Saffold, who picked Harris from a lineup a few days after the killing, stood by his statement, he told CBS Chicago in 2019.

Harris' family has maintained that he was at home watching NBA Playoffs during the time the shooting occurred, according to ABC 7 Chicago, CBS Chicago and The Washington Post.

Multiple news reports say prosecutors plan to retry Harris on the murder charge.

The Cook County State's Attorney's Office said in a statement to PEOPLE that the case was being vacated "due to shifts in witness testimony and available evidence."

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The statement said prosecutors will "pursue a new trial" but did not say if prosecutors would be trying Harris for murder, specifically.

“We are all disappointed that the State has indicated they will retry Darien under the circumstances,” his attorney Lauren Myerscough-Mueller told PEOPLE, adding that he was “wrongly arrested” in connection with the crime. 

Nakesha Harris, Darien’s mother, tells PEOPLE via Myerscough-Mueller that she is “concerned about the integrity” of the case should it be retried.

When the conviction was vacated, "my son should have been coming home,” she told PEOPLE via the attorney.

“We are grateful the State reviewed the case and agreed that the conviction should be vacated,” Myerscough-Mueller said. “We hope they will continue their review of the evidence and will not proceed with another trial.” 

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