A Judge sentenced a man, who was then a teen, to 76 years in jail 5 years ago based on a witness who is blind. The judge heard the case without a jury, and there was no physical evidence linking him to the crime. The man has been trying to get his sentence overturned.
Darien Harris was convicted of murder at 18 based on the testimony of an eyewitness who was legally blind.
Dexter Saffold was the witness in the case 5 years ago, and explained to the court the chaos he saw at a South Side gas station in 2011.
It’s reported that there’s no evidence linking Darien Harris to the shooting at a gas station that left a man named Rondell Moore dead and another named Quincy Woulard injured.
Judge Nicholas Ford who presided over the case called Saffold a “Hot witness”, who gave an “unblemished” testimony. He gave Harris 76 years based off the testimony.
It now turns out that the judge, nor the accused knew that the witness, Dexter Saffold, was legally blind.
Saffold had been deemed legally blind years earlier by his doctors and the U.S. government, he had advanced glaucoma.
Harris is now trying to get his sentence overturned. He cites that the witness lied on the stand and failed to reveal his blindness. Saffold was asked in court if he had vision problems, and told the court that he had no problem seeing.
Harris’s attorney, in a filing that asks the Cook County state’s attorney’s Conviction Integrity Unit to review the case, said:
“The mere fact that fact that he lied under oath about his ability to see should alone call his testimony into question,”
The shooting happened around 8:20 p.m. on June 7, 2011, at the BP station at 6600 S. Stony Island Ave. Two brothers, Ronald and Rondell Moore pulled up to the station with car trouble, and a mechanic named Woulard started working under the hood of their car.
According to prosecutors, Harris got out of the car and started shooting. Rondell Moore was shot three times in the back. Woulard was hit in the chest and under his right arm.
Harris went on trial in 2014, and Saffold testified to the court that he was on his way home from a fast-food restaurant on his when the shooting happened. He told the court he was about 18 feet away when the gunfire started, and that he was so close that the shooter bumped into him, nearly causing him to drop the gun as he escaped.
During his questioning, Saffold was asked by a lawyer if he had vision problems. He said “Yes I do”, but then said “No”, that he didn’t have any difficulty seeing, and continued to testify.
It’s now brought up that Saffold had filed a number of complaints and lawsuits against against colleges, a landlord and two employers, claiming that they discriminated against him because of his poor vision.
According to those same records, Saffold started receiving Social Security disability benefits in 2002 because of his vision. A doctor had diagnosed him with 20/400 vision, meaning that for something someone could see from 400 feet away, Saffold would need to be standing 20 feet away to be able to see the same thing clearly.
In an interview Saffold said that Harris was the one who killed the men that day, saying:
“I don’t know that man for nothing in the world, all I know is that, on this particular day, he shot somebody.”
A man named Jodie Toney, who was then 53, was a worker at the gas station during the time of the shooting. Toney told police he was about to ask the man whose car had broken down at the pump if he needed antifreeze, and that’s when the gunman came.
Another man, the gas station attendant who was working at the gas station, also told police that he recognized the gunman, because about an hour earlier the gunman had threatened to “blow his head off.”
Toney then called the police saying that he believed the would-be gunman was stealing something.
The lead detectives on the case, Isaac Lambert and Devinn Jones had Toney view a lineup which included Harris. Both Toney and the gas station attendant didn’t identify Harris as the shooter.
Toney then went on to say that it wasn’t Harris at all. Both he and the gas station attendant were adamant that Harris wasn’t the shooter.
In an affidavit, Toney said that the officers at the station were pressuring him to identify Harris as the shooter, pushing him to choose Harris by saying “It will be one bad guy off the street.”
Toney says he wasn’t called to testify in 2014, He said ithat he was never contacted by Harris’s attorney prior to trial to testify in the case.
Nakesha Harris, Darien Harris’ mom has been pleading for her son to be released and sent back to her, saying that he’s been wrongly convicted and sentenced:
Nakesha Harris told reporters:
“Please send my baby home. Do not let me spend another Mother’s Day without my firstborn.”
Dexter Saffold said the shooter bumped into him at the gas station as he escaped from the scene, but Jodi Garvey, Harris’ attorney said the gas station surveillance tape places a man believed to be Saffold on the scene one minute after the shooter and a friend take off.
“He couldn’t have bumped into him, he couldn’t have seen him,”