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Darryl Hunt Remembered For His Forgiving Spirit

Kathryn Mobley
Darryl Hunt in 2014

This week, we noted the death of Darryl Hunt. His death received statewide media attention, primarily because he was wrongfully convicted of a Winston-Salem murder in 1985. Hunt, who is black, was convicted of killing a white, newspaper copy editor. He served 19 years in prison before DNA evidence exonerated him and led police to the real killer.

Here’s something else we learned about Hunt: He had an incredible capacity to forgive and never held a grudge.

“In the 32 years I knew him, he never expressed anger toward anyone,” said Mark Rabil, Hunt's attorney. “He was in jail and hadn’t been convicted of anything and even then, knowing he was innocent, he said anybody can make a mistake. He figured the police had made a mistake in his case and one day they’d figure it out and the right thing would be done. He’s very forgiving of people.”

After Hunt’s conviction was overturned, he was pardoned and received a nearly $2 million settlement. He founded in Winston-Salem the Darryl Hunt Project for Freedom and Justice, which advocated for prison reform, those wrongfully convicted and provided support for newly-released prisoners.

“He helped thousands when they came out and his recidivism rate was 10 percent. People were treated holistically, they got GEDs, diplomas, job training, learned how to do job interviews, some got counseling. He tried to look at people holistically and get to the core of the problem and keep them from going back into the system,” Rabil said.

Still, Hunt remained haunted by his own 19-year prison experience. In an interview with WFDD a year and a half ago, he talked about often standing in front of doors, waiting for them to open as they did in prison, instead of reaching for the door knob. He blamed prison life for this obsession and others he struggled with after being released.

"When I leave the house, my first stop is always to the ATM machine to get a picture,” Hunt said. “It gives me a date and a time and I have a receipt in my car, and if I’m leaving town, I do the same thing in the next town, so someone will know what I was doing. It’s a safeguard for me to feel comfortable to be free.”

Two books have been written about Hunt’s wrongful conviction and an independent documentary was produced, ‘The Trials of Darryl Hunt,’ in 2006.  No information has been released on the cause of his death. Hunt was 51.

Gwendolyn is an award-winning journalist who has covered a broad range of stories on the local and national levels. Her experience includes producing on-air reports for National Public Radio and she worked full-time as a producer for NPR’s All Things Considered news program for five years. She worked for several years as an on-air contract reporter for CNN in Atlanta and worked in print as a reporter for the Baltimore Sun Media Group, The Washington Post and covered Congress and various federal agencies for the Daily Environment Report and Real Estate Finance Today. Glenn has won awards for her reports from the Maryland-DC-Delaware Press Association, SNA and the first-place radio award from the National Association of Black Journalists.