Friday, July 14, 2006

The Trials of Darryl Hunt: Two Perspectives

A group of NCADP interns recently viewed a special showing of The Trials of Darryl Hunt, which details the story of an innocent person who was convicted and sentenced to life in prison in North Carolina. Interns Y. Eugina Huang (who we call "Yuji") and Rachel Lawler (who we call "Rachel") shared their views afterwards.

Yuji writes:

Innocent until proven guilty?
Unfortunately, if you are a poor black man in a Southern state accused of raping and killing a “white rose,” it’s the other way around. The system needs a scapegoat, and one black man’s freedom means as much as the next one’s. This is the land of sweet tea and generous hospitality, but it is also the land of trees that once bore “strange fruit,” of de facto segregation and the Klan.

This is the subject of The Trials of Darryl Hunt, a powerful documentary about race, class, and how twenty years of a man’s life were stolen from him by a jury of his (white) peers. In 1984, a young white woman was killed in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. This was an era before reliable DNA testing, but positive identifications from a drug addict, a Klansman, and a convicted criminal led to the arrest of Darryl Hunt, a young black man. An all-white jury found him guilty, and he was sentenced to life in prison.

Well, at least he didn’t get the death penalty, right?

What’s the difference? In our moral system, we hold freedom as a paramount value. In other words, it’s all the way up there with life and the pursuit of happiness and all that jazz. To take away a man’s freedom is tantamount to taking his life, especially if this is wrongfully done in the name of justice for all.

How many other Darryl Hunts are out there, not just in the South but throughout the nation? We cannot ignore the fact that there are men and women wrongfully convicted, serving sentences they do not deserve. And this is not limited to those on death row—what about those serving life sentences, or even those unjustifiably serving lesser sentences? No matter how few, these human beings are a significant minimum.

Innocent until proven guilty. Right.

And Rachel writes:
On Tuesday evening several of us from NCADP viewed an advanced screening of the documentary “The Trials of Daryl Hunt”.

I think that a more apropos (and admittedly a bit lengthier) name for the film is: “The Indelible Spirit of an Amazingly Courageous and Inspirational Man Named Daryl Hunt”.

This film did a fantastic job of chronicling how a completely innocent man was twice convicted and sentenced to life. His case was riddled with prosecutorial misconduct, police misconduct, blatant racism within the community. Sounds like a real pick-me-up, right? But it was. This man never once faltered in his claim of innocence, even to the detriment of his freedom when he refused a plea bargain that would have set him free (on time served) if he plead to 2nd-degree manslaughter. He then went to trial and was found guilty for the 2nd time. Throughout the film the humanity, love, faith, and spirit within this man persevered and were what helped him to carry on when all odds were against him.

Afterwards, a panel discussion was held featuring Daryl, one of his lawyers, and a representative from Open Society Policy Center.

See this documentary!!!

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