Commentary, News

Vigil tonight for innocence crusader Darryl Hunt

Darryl Hunt

Image: www.innocenceproject.org

Criminal justice advocates (and justice advocates of all kinds) around North Carolina and the nation were shocked this morning to learn of the tragic passing of Darryl Hunt. As WRAL reported here, Hunt was found dead in his car in Winston-Salem early this morning after having been declared missing yesterday.

The Wake Forest University School of Law posted the following a little while ago:

Vigil to be held for Darryl Hunt at 8 p.m. on Sunday, March 13, at Emmanuel Baptist Church

A vigil will be held for exoneree Darryl Hunt, who worked closely with the Wake Forest Law Innocence and Justice Clinic, at 8 p.m. Sunday, March 13, at Emmanuel Baptist Church, 1075 Shalimar Drive, in Winston-Salem.

Hunt’s body was found early this morning in a vehicle off University Parkway. The cause of his death is still under investigation, according to the Winston-Salem Police Department.

The Rev. John Mendez, who has been involved since 1984 as part of the Hunt defense team, is hosting the vigil.

Hunt, who was exonerated in February 2004, was represented by Wake Forest School of Law Director of Innocence and Justice Clinic Mark Rabil.  Hunt was granted a pardon of innocence by Gov. Mike Easley in April 2004.

“Twenty years of wrongful of incarceration and 12 years of being a voice for the voiceless is what killed Darryl Hunt,” Rabil said this afternoon. “He embodied all that trauma  and took it on himself.”

Rabil was an assistant capital defender in Forsyth County whose zealous advocacy led to the release and exoneration of Hunt after 19 years of incarceration. In 1984, Rabil was court-appointed to assist a senior partner in his law firm in representing Hunt, a 19-year-old black man charged with the rape and murder of Deborah Sykes, a young newspaper copy editor in Winston-Salem. Though no credible evidence linked Hunt to the murder, he would spend nearly 20 years in prison trying to prove his innocence.

Following Hunt’s release, he and Rabil spoke at events across the country sharing Hunt’s ordeal to illuminate the issues of wrongful conviction, race and the death penalty. An HBO documentary, “The Trials of Darryl Hunt,” is shown to first-year Wake Forest Law students at Orientation and Rabil and Hunt would discuss the film and answer questions following the screening.

Hunt also assisted the Innocence and Justice Clinic on a number of cases, Rabil said. Through the clinic, Hunt worked with Experiment for Self-Reliance to help people get their criminal records expunged, did public speaking and talked to law students about his case.

Hunt’s 2004 exoneration is cited as the genesis of the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission an article “Guilty, Then Proven Innocent,” published by The Atlantic on Monday, Feb. 9, 2015.

The North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission was founded by the North Carolina General Assembly in 2007 and was the first of its kind in the nation. Since its nascence, the Commission has reviewed hundreds of innocence claims and conducted multiple hearings.

“Part of Darryl’s legacy is the numerous people who have been freed as a result of the Commission created because of his case,” Rabil added.

The Winston-Salem Journal featured Hunt in 2014 here.

3 Comments


  1. Jeneanne Brown

    March 13, 2016 at 7:21 pm

    RIP Daryl Hunt

  2. Sam

    March 14, 2016 at 3:37 am

    Goodbye Darryl. We love you. R.I.P

  3. Alex

    March 14, 2016 at 11:36 am

    At the same time, we should remember Jacai Colson, 28, a Maryland policeman who was ambushed and killed yesterday for no apparent reason. These law enforcement officers are putting their lives in jeopardy each and every day to protect us.

Check Also

Charlotte Observer blasts “startling hypocrisy” of NC GOP

Be sure to check out today’s lead editorial ...

Top Stories from NCPW

  • News
  • Commentary

A pivotal legislative task force may be just beginning its dive into North Carolina’s school funding [...]

The controversy over “Silent Sam,” the Confederate monument on UNC’s Chapel Hill campus, has been ra [...]

North Carolina tries to mine its swine and deal with a poop problem that keeps piling up A blanket o [...]

This story is part of "Peak Pig," an examination of the hog industry co-published with Env [...]

With Republicans on Capitol Hill and in the White House desperate to post a big legislative win, the [...]

Latest court system mess is directly linked to the Right’s ideological war on public structures Some [...]

Republicans in Congress are rushing to advance a tax reform bill that balloons the federal deficit s [...]

The post Charitable donations and the GOP’s chopping block appeared first on NC Policy Watch. [...]

Spotlight on Journalism

We invite you to join a special celebration of investigative journalism! The evening will feature Mike Rezendes, a member of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Boston Globe Spotlight Team known for their coverage of the cover-up of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.

Tickets available NOW!

Spotlight On Journalism

This event will benefit NC Policy Watch, a project of the North Carolina Justice Center. Sponsorship opportunities available now!

Featured | Special Projects

NC Budget 2017
The maze of the NC Budget is complex. Follow the stories to follow the money.
Read more


NC Redistricting 2017
New map, new districts, new lawmakers. Here’s what you need to know about gerrymandering in NC.
Read more