Darryl Hunt
Darryl Hunt is an African American
African American
African Americans are citizens or residents of the United States who have at least partial ancestry from any of the native populations of Sub-Saharan Africa and are the direct descendants of enslaved Africans within the boundaries of the present United States...

 man from Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Winston-Salem is a city in the U.S. state of North Carolina, with a 2010 population of 229,617. Winston-Salem is the county seat and largest city of Forsyth County and the fourth-largest city in the state. Winston-Salem is the second largest municipality in the Piedmont Triad region and is home to...

 who, in 1984, was wrongfully convicted
Miscarriage of justice
A miscarriage of justice primarily is the conviction and punishment of a person for a crime they did not commit. The term can also apply to errors in the other direction—"errors of impunity", and to civil cases. Most criminal justice systems have some means to overturn, or "quash", a wrongful...

 of the rape
Rape is a type of sexual assault usually involving sexual intercourse, which is initiated by one or more persons against another person without that person's consent. The act may be carried out by physical force, coercion, abuse of authority or with a person who is incapable of valid consent. The...

 and murder
Murder is the unlawful killing, with malice aforethought, of another human being, and generally this state of mind distinguishes murder from other forms of unlawful homicide...

 of a young white newspaper copy editor, Deborah Sykes, but was later exonerated by DNA
Deoxyribonucleic acid is a nucleic acid that contains the genetic instructions used in the development and functioning of all known living organisms . The DNA segments that carry this genetic information are called genes, but other DNA sequences have structural purposes, or are involved in...

 evidence. He served 19 and a half years in prison before he was freed after review and exoneration.

A modern cause célèbre
Cause célèbre
A is an issue or incident arousing widespread controversy, outside campaigning and heated public debate. The term is particularly used in connection with celebrated legal cases. It is a French phrase in common English use...

, his case was said to have "helped define race relations in Winston-Salem for 20 years."

Darryl Hunt is now a Muslim and involved in the Innocence Project
Innocence Project
An Innocence Project is one of a number of non-profit legal organizations in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand dedicated to proving the innocence of wrongly convicted people through the use of DNA testing, and to reforming the criminal justice systems to...

, as well as his own group called The Darryl Hunt Project for Freedom and Justice. This project is devoted to "educating the public about flaws in the criminal justice system, advocating for those wrongfully incarcerated as a result of those flaws, and providing resources and support for those trying to rebuild their lives."

History of the case

Darryl Hunt was charged with murder due to inconsistencies occurring during the early phases of the case. The 19-year-old Hunt was charged with the rape of a local copy editor, Deborah Sykes. No physical evidence linked Hunt to the crime, but there were claims, later proven to be false, made by a hotel employee who saw Hunt enter the hotel bathroom later that morning and exit leaving bloody hand towels, as well as other witnesses who placed Hunt near the scene. He was convicted by an all-white jury, and sentenced to life imprisonment. In 1994, DNA testing cleared Hunt of any sexual assault, and because sexual assault was at the heart of the murder case, the murder charges were then in question. In December 2003, Willard E. Brown confessed to the 1984 rape and stabbing death of Deborah Sykes after DNA testing linked him to the crime. His confession led to the release of Darryl Hunt, who had served about 19 years of a life sentence for a crime he always denied committing.

On February 6, 2004, Superior Court Judge Anderson Cromer vacated Hunt's murder conviction in the case. Cromer dismissed the case against Hunt "with prejudice", meaning he can never be tried in the murder again.

Although Sykes' mother took the stand at his release hearing and stated that she still thought he had killed her daughter, Hunt offered Deborah Sykes' mother his condolences for her loss, and forgave everyone for the years he spent in prison.

Darryl Hunt is the founder of The Darryl Hunt Project for Freedom and Justice and The Darryl Hunt Freedom Fighters. He is an award winning speaker, mentor, community activist and author. Hunt has spoken to hundreds of conferences, schools, film festivals
and religious groups, in an effort to spread his message of reform and compassion. He played a pivotal role in North Carolina’s state-wide effort to pass a Death Penalty Moratorium Bill and has appeared before a US Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the death penalty appeals process.

Darryl Hunt not only believes that a justice system that imprisons the innocent and leaves the guilty on the street to commit more crimes affects us all, but he firmly believes that if just one young person is positively influenced as a result of his story, then his time away from his family will not have been in vain.

Darryl Hunt is formally represented by WC Consulting and WCP Communications www.wcpcommunications.com. His publicist, Tanya Wiley, is working with him to release his autobiography, Life Interrupted - The Trials of Darryl Hunt.


In December 2005, an independent
Independent film
An independent film, or indie film, is a professional film production resulting in a feature film that is produced mostly or completely outside of the major film studio system. In addition to being produced and distributed by independent entertainment companies, independent films are also produced...

 documentary film
Documentary film
Documentary films constitute a broad category of nonfictional motion pictures intended to document some aspect of reality, primarily for the purposes of instruction or maintaining a historical record...

 titled The Trials of Darryl Hunt, was named a Sundance Film Festival
Sundance Film Festival
The Sundance Film Festival is a film festival that takes place annually in Utah, in the United States. It is the largest independent cinema festival in the United States. Held in January in Park City, Salt Lake City, and Ogden, as well as at the Sundance Resort, the festival is a showcase for new...

 selection, and premiered in early 2006. The film documents, in its own words, "the story [of the brutal rape and murder] in North Carolina, and offers a deeply personal story of a wrongfully convicted man, Darryl Hunt, who spent twenty years in prison for a crime he did not commit." The documentary illustrates the humility of both Darryl and his wife, the drive and determination of his supporters, and depicts the ongoing battle with the racism that underlies this case.


In April 2007, the book Long Time Coming was published, recounting Hunt's sixth grade teacher's (Jo Anne North Goetz) steadfast belief in Darryl's innocence. The book was written by author Leigh Somerville McMillan, who also writes for the Winston-Salem Journal
Winston-Salem Journal
The Winston-Salem Journal is a daily newspaper primarily serving the city of Winston-Salem, North Carolina and its county, Forsyth County, North Carolina. It also features coverage of Northwestern North Carolina and circulates as far west as Tennessee and north to Virginia.The paper is owned by...



On February 19, 2007, the city of Winston-Salem settled with Hunt in his lawsuit against the city. Hunt was awarded a settlement of $1,650,000.

See also

  • List of racism-related topics
  • Racism in the United States
    Racism in the United States
    Racism in the United States has been a major issue since the colonial era and the slave era. Legally sanctioned racism imposed a heavy burden on Native Americans, African Americans, Asian Americans, and Latin Americans...

  • Southern United States
    Southern United States
    The Southern United States—commonly referred to as the American South, Dixie, or simply the South—constitutes a large distinctive area in the southeastern and south-central United States...

  • Scottsboro Boys
    Scottsboro Boys
    The Scottsboro Boys were nine black teenage boys accused of rape in Alabama in 1931. The landmark set of legal cases from this incident dealt with racism and the right to a fair trial...

  • Jena 6
  • Trenton Six
  • Jim Crow

External links

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