The Trials Of Darryl Hunt

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Back in 1984, Debbie Sykes, a popular reporter from Winston-Salem, NC, was

brutally raped and slain and left scantily clad in a wooded area of her


Because the victim was a well-known, young blonde, the police were

under considerable pressure to crack the high-profile case.

Based on the positive identification by Thomas Murphy, a Ku
Klux Klansman, a 19 year-old Black kid named Darryl Hunt was soon fingered as the perpetrator. In spite of a lack of evidence linking him to the crime scene, Darryl was arrested and charged with the murder.

While behind bars, he was jailed briefly with Jessie Moore, a white convict who would later be promised parole in return for damning testimony against his cellmate. Under oath, Moore swore that claimed Hunt had confessed killing Sykes to him.

After a trial which might best be described as a rush to
judgment, Hunt was found guilty by an all-white jury which took the word of a couple of shady characters over that of an innocent African-American kid with a solid alibi. Sentenced to life imprisonment, he would languish in prison for ten years till his plight came to the attention of the Innocence


At the behest of attorney Barry Scheck, a member of O.J. Simpson’s infamous Dream Team, the case was reopened and it was determined that Darryl’s DNA did not match any of the semen left on the body of Sykes.

Although it was readily apparent by 1994 that he was indeed innocent, it would take another decade before the corrupt Carolina court system would finally be forced to clear his name.

That tireless effort to set a wrongfully-convicted man free is the subject of The Trials of Darryl Hunt, a disturbing bio-pic chronicling a mammoth miscarriage of justice which can only be explained as resulting from deep-seated racism. Despite its feelgood resolution, the film offers little in the way of reassurance that the next Black man framed in the Deep South won’t have to wait just as long to be vindicated.


Excellent (4 stars). Unrated. Running time: 107 minutes. Studio: ThinkFilm


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