Chicago man acquitted in 2011 murder case where legally blind eyewitness testified


Darian Harris spent more than 12 years Illinois In prison, convicted of murder on the testimony of an eyewitness, who was legally blind.

Harris, who was released from prison Tuesday, was convicted in 2014 of the fatal shooting of a man at a gas station on Chicago’s South Side in 2011.

His case is the latest of a dozen exonerations this year in Chicago’s Cook County, where defendants have been represented by attorneys from The Exoneration Project.

“There seems to be a greater number of people coming in than usual over the past few months,” said Lauren Myerscough-Mueller, a law lecturer and staff attorney for The Exoneration Project at the University of Chicago Law School.

According to the organization’s data, since 2009, more than 200 people have been exonerated through the group’s work.

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Nearly 150 convictions were linked to Former Chicago Police Sgt. Ronald Watts, who routinely framed people for drug crimes they did not commit. Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx said in December 2022 that 237 convictions vacated in recent years were linked to Watts and his unit.

Harris is one of four Chicagoans who have been acquitted in the past few weeks.

On December 14, James Soto and his cousin David Ayala were freed from their murder convictions after spending more than 40 years in Illinois prisons. Each was sentenced to life imprisonment. Soto was also represented by The Exoneration Project.

Brian BealsThe 57-year-old had been freed two days earlier after a judge dismissed murder and other charges and vacated his conviction. Beals spent 35 years behind bars.

Harris was sentenced to 76 years in prison.

“But I fought, and now I’m here,” Harris, now 30, said after his release. Keep fighting, everyone. Just keep fighting. never give up.”

Myerscough-Mueller said the evidence showed the eyewitness had glaucoma and had lied about his vision problems at Harris’ trial. The evidence also included testimony from a gas station attendant who said Harris was not the shooter.

“It was always a very slim case. Darien should never have been convicted in the first place,” she said.

Judges and prosecutors are taking such cases “more seriously,” said Josh Taffer, another attorney with The Exoneration Project, one of several organizations seeking justice for wrongfully imprisoned people across the United States. There is one.

“They see problems over and over again,” Tepfer said.

Also this week, a oklahoma Judge acquits 71-year-old man Glynn Simmons Who spent 48 years in prison for a 1974 murder. Simmons was released in July after prosecutors agreed that key evidence in his case had not been turned over to his defense attorneys.

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