Christopher Harding

7 years
In August, 1989, two men shot and wounded Deron Jones in the Mission Hill housing project in Boston, and then fired on pursuing police officers. One shooter, Dwayne Owens, surrendered at the scene, while the second man ran into a nearby building. Police Officer Terence O’Neil entered the building and found Christopher Harding sitting on the stairs – a spot he frequently occupied when too drunk to go home. Officers O’Neil and Stratton identified Harding as the second shooter, as did Glenn Hill, who was with the victim Deron Jones and was shown Harding in the back seat of a police cruiser.

Harding was convicted of two counts of assault with intent to murder and other offenses and sentenced to 10-12 years, despite the testimony of a witness who testified that she had seen Owens with a different man shortly before the crime. There was no physical evidence or motive and the conviction rested on the testimony of the two police officers and Glenn Hill.

In 1995, Harding was released following a grand jury investigation of gang activities of Dwayne Owens, during which Hill recanted his identification of Harding in the Jones case. Members of Owens’ gang identified the second shooter as his cousin, Robert Owens. Harding filed a motion for a new trial, which was granted without hearing witnesses, based on “serious questions about the veracity” of police testimony at the first trial. Against court orders, O’Neil had spoken to a police witness at the trial who then changed his testimony. Police had obstructed defense efforts to subpoena O’Neil’s partner on the night of the incident, whose report differed from those of O’Neil and Stratton. And, the police had “lost” the jacket and hat worn by Harding on the night of the crime, which the defense claimed were different from those worn by the perpetrator.

In January 1998, prosecutors decided not to retry Harding, and he was eventually awarded $480,000 from the City of Boston in settlement of a suit for wrongful conviction by perjured testimony. Officer O’Neil was fired for “lying under oath and other breaches of department rules during the (Harding) case.” However, Harding was never officially exonerated.

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© 2011 New England Innocence Project