The Trials Of Darryl Hunt

HBO/TH!NKFilm. 106 minutes.<br /> In the summer of 1984, 19-year-old African American Darryl Hunt was arrested for the rape and murder of a white woman, Deborah Sykes, a newspaper copy editor in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


In the summer of 1984, 19-year-old African American Darryl Hunt was arrested for the rape and murder of a white woman, Deborah Sykes, a newspaper copy editor in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Forensic evidence failed to match Hunt to the crime, but he was swiftly convicted by an all-white jury on the basis of an alleged witness’ dubious 911 call, and on the testimonies of a Klansman and a cocaine-addicted teenage prostitute. Ten years into a life sentence, Hunt was denied a third trial by the Supreme Court despite dna evidence that revealed Hunt wasn’t Sykes’ rapist. Against all odds, Hunt’s hope—and that of his indefatigable defense attorneys—emerges from those fragile genetic strands.Tenacious themselves, codirectors Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg followed Hunt’s harrowing story for more than a decade. Their film’s quiet rage against the perpetrators of gross criminal injustice is enriched by the characterization of Hunt as a man who somehow maintained his composure and his faith over 20 years, even as those working overtime to free him began to doubt they’d ever succeed. As one supporter states, “Racism is more powerful than facts.” This searing documentary makes you understand and even feel that despairing sentiment, but Hunt’s strength surpasses all else. He was finally released in 2004, and in February 2007 the City of Winston-Salem gave Hunt a $1.65 million settlement and formally apologized “for all that he has endured and suffered.”

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate