Man fights case after judge gave him 76 years based on eyewitness who is legally blind
An Illinois man who was sentenced to 76 years in jail for a 2011 murder is attempting to get his conviction overturned, claiming that an eyewitness to the shooting was declared legally blind before he took the stand, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
Dexter Saffold testified in 2014 that he was on a scooter heading home when he saw Darien Harris, 26, shoot Rondell Moore and Quincy Woulard at a Chicago gas station three years earlier in 2011.
An attorney for Harris claims that Saffold untruthfully told a Cook County court that he had no problems seeing, although lawsuits that Saffold filed over a span of 16 years have revealed otherwise.
"The mere fact that [Saffold] lied under oath about his ability to see should alone call his testimony into question," Harris' lawyer wrote in a filing to the Cook County state attorney's Conviction Integrity Unit.
On the night of June 7, 2011, Moore and Woulard pulled into a BP gas station after experiencing car trouble. Woulard, a mechanic, was working under the hood when a Lexus purportedly stopped right next to the two. Prosecutors say Harris allegedly got out of the car, shot Moore three times in the back and shot Woulard in the chest and under his arm. Moore later died from his injuries.
There was no physical evidence that tied Harris, who had no criminal record, to the shooting. Still, Cook County Circuit Judge Nicholas Ford, who oversaw the case without the jury, believed Saffold, whom he called an "honest witness," the Sun-Times notes.
Records, however, show that doctors, along with the federal government, had deemed Saffold —who had advanced glaucoma — legally blind several years before he testified. In fact, in 2002, he began to receive Social Security benefits because his field of vision was severely limited.
Saffold also sued the City Colleges of Chicago in federal court in 2012 after he claimed he did not receive the necessary vision-tailored accommodations while enrolled in an adult education class. He ultimately settled out of court just three months before he testified against Harris.
Other witnesses who testified against Harris in 2014, including Moore's brother, have since recanted their testimonies, accusing detectives of pressuring them to identify Harris as the shooter.
When interviewed by the Sun-Times last week, Saffold maintained that Harris was indeed responsible for Moore's death.
“I don’t know [Harris] for nothing in the world,” Saffold said. “All I know is that, on this particular day, he shot somebody.”