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Wrongful Conviction: the Darryl Hunt Case

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Darryl Hunt is an African American born in 1965 in North Carolina. In 1984, he was convicted wrongfully of rape and murder of Deborah Sykes, a young white woman working as a newspaper editor. This paper researches oh his wrongful conviction in North Carolina. Darryl Hunt served nineteen and a half years before DNA evidence exonerated him. The charges leveled against him were because of inconsistencies in the initial stages of the case. An all-white bench convicted the then nineteen-year-old Hunt, even though there was no physical evidence linking him to the crime. A hotel employee made false claims that he saw Hunt enter the hotel bathroom, and later emerge with bloodstained towels. Other witnesses also fixed Hunt to the case. While sexual assault was central to the case, in 1994 DNA testing cleared him of involvement in the case, throwing the whole case into question.

Wrongful Conviction: The Darryl Hunt Case

The real killer emerged in 2003, confessing to the rape and murder of Sykes. Willard Brown’s confession led to the release of Hunt. For the nineteen years he served time in prison, Hunt always denied ever having raped and killed Sykes. In 2004, Anderson Cromer, a Superior Court Judge dismissed Hunt’s case with prejudice, implying that he could never stand trial for the same case in future. It is telling that Sykes’ mother remained adamant that Hunt had killed her daughter, even though he offered his condolences for her death, and forgave all for the years he was in prison. Hunt is now a motivational speaker, author, community activist and mentor, spreading a message of compassion and reform. He appeared before a Senate Judiciary Committee to speak about the appeal process against the death penalty, and was central to North Carolina’s bid to pass a Death Penalty Moratorium Bill. Background and Justification

The conviction of Darryl Hunt brings to the fore some pertinent issues concerning the legal systems and procedures in North Carolina. Serving close to twenty years for a crime he never committed must have been a harrowing experience. That he was exonerated raises questions as to whether there are other countless people serving time for crimes they never committed. There is need to examine the role of DNA in criminal prosecutions since this plays a fundamental part in convicting a suspect. Similarly, there is need to examine whether race plays a role in determining if one is convicted or released. This is because an all-white bench convicted Hunt, who is of African American descent, of a crime he did not commit. Whether racial prejudice plays any role in our criminal and justice system needs critical examine since the law should be fair and equal before all. A non-discriminative judicial system will enhance public trust and eliminate cases of wrongful conviction. Literature Review

With the number of DNA exonerations growing in the recent years, wrongful convictions reveal disturbing trends and fissures in the justice system. It shows how broken the system is, and why it needs urgent fixing. According to Huff (1996), over ten thousand people are convicted wrongfully for serious crimes each year. This study established that factors leading to wrongful convictions are false eyewitnesses, a prejudiced jury, incompetent prosecutors, and suspects’ ignorance. Where DNA evidence clears a suspect, array of reasons emerge; misconduct, mistakes, to race and class factors. It is important to make DNA data available to attorneys in order to enable them mount a strong defense for suspects (Bronner, 2013). However, it is crucial to remember that those exonerated by DNA are not the only people serving time for crimes they did not commit.

In any case, for each case that involves DNA, hundreds do not. A fraction of cases involves evidence with links to DNA, and in most cases, authorities destroy the evidence upon conviction. In cases where there is no definite DNA test, many people have no chance of proving their innocence. Wrongful convictions for violent crimes in the State of Illinois have cost the taxpayer over $ 210 million, and condemned innocent people to close to 930 years (Conroy & Warden, 2011). When someone is convicted wrongfully, the true perpetrators get the leeway to continue committing crimes. For instance, Conroy and Warden (2011) established that when 85 people were incarcerated wrongfully, actual perpetrators committed eleven sexual assaults, fourteen murders, ten kidnappings, and over sixty other felonies. Findings and Analysis

Cases of wrongful conviction and confinement are an indictment on the criminal justice system, and present challenges for all stakeholders. A person convicted wrongfully suffers the most inhuman conditions, is ostracized from society, and finds getting back into society an adifficult task. He or she becomes economically impotent. An innocent person who lives with criminals for a long time may exit prison having learnt the ropes, and may become a hardcore criminal. There is urgent need to examine why wrongful convictions occur. Research findings indicate the most common causes of wrongful conviction are alleged police error and misconduct, erroneous eye witnesses, prosecutorial misconduct, false confession, often under duress, questionable forensic testimony or evidence, and poor and pitiable services from counsel (Free &Ruesink, 2012).

The use of eyewitnesses as the sole source of evidence is one of the leading reasons for wrongful convictions. In some cases, authorities relied on only one eyewitness to convict a suspect. Such a witness could have a personal vendetta against the defendant. In the Darryl Hunt case, Sykes’ mother maintained she was convinced beyond reasonable doubt that Hunt was her daughter’s killer. If she had been the sole eyewitness, Hunt would probably have been incarcerated for life. Since eyewitness testimony is the ubiquitous factor, there is an urgent need for triangulation and collaboration of evidence to guarantee justice for all people suspected of committing any felony. The issue of race and class also needs attention. A jury may be prejudiced because of color or rank. Such cases erode the tenets upon which justice is based, and deny innocent people of their freedom. Conclusion

Wrongful convictions are a disturbing threat to the criminal justice system. Concerned authorities must get to the causes behind and this trend, and put adequate measures in place to ensure the trend is reversed. The legal process must be beyond reproach, and police officres, prosecutors, counsel, and the jury must work in hearmony to ensure efficient and effective discharge of justice. The amount of money lost because of these convictions is collossal. These funds could be used to reform the judiciary, and to invest in forensic equipment to reduce the number of wrongful convictions. Similarly, justice must be served to all equally, regardless of one’s religion, creed, social standing or race. The criminal justice system must approach its conduct with requisite zeal and commitment. It is only then people will begin to have confidence in the system.


Bronner, E. (2013, January 4th). Lawyers Saying DNA Cleared Inmate, Pursue Access to Data. Retrieved January 4th, 2013, from The New York Times: http://topics.nytimes.com/topics/reference/timestopics/subjects/f/false_arrests_convictions_and_imprisonments/index.html Conroy, J. &.Warden, R. (2011, June 18th). The High Cost of Wrongful Convictions. Retrieved January 4th, 2013, from BGA: http://www.bettergov.org/investigations/wrongful_convictions_1.aspx Free, M.D. & Ruesink, M.(2012).Race and Justice: Wrongful Convictions of African American Men. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers. Huff, C. R. (1996). Convicted But Innocent: Wrongful Conviction and Public Policy. New York, NY: Sage Publications.

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