The documentary film, Trials of Darryl Hunt, premiered on HBO last night. Darryl Hunt’s tragic encounter with an imperfect and impartial justice system cost him a quarter of his life. He may be considered lucky in that respect; he could have lost his life. Even in the 21st Century where we consider our society humane and tolerant, many face injustices from our law system that has not escaped racial and class segmentation. False eyewitness testimonies have plagued North Carolina’s law enforcement legitimacy and creditability; with the latest example being the Duke Lacrosse players’ case. House Bill 1625, which was voted favorably by the Judiciary I Committee Tuesday, proposes a process in which witnesses are protected from intimidation, pressure, influence and assumptions by standardizing procedures that preserve a witness’s accuracy. Darryl Hunt was subjected to false eyewitness testimony that was motivated by instant ramification, anger, and hatred. The bill implements a blind administration of the eyewitness identification process with procedures such as lineups being conducted by independent administrators, notifying the witness that the perpetrator may or may not be in the lineup, isolating the witnesses from each other, and many other interesting standards.
It is important to reflect on Darryl Hunt’s experience as a logical argument for why the state should not be involved in sentencing people to death. Without absolute, flawless certainty that fair justice will be handed down, the state should reconsider killing someone. Darryl Hunt’s case does not exaggerate how susceptible criminal cases are to jury bias, politically motivated prosecutors and many other factors. In fact, race still plays a part in whether someone receives a death sentence, an arbitrary determinate that is unjust and wrong at its root. North Carolina still is not at the point at which it can preserve the absence of bias justice influenced by bigotry for those on trial, and until it can, the state cannot justifiably put someone to death.