In a crime so brutal it shocked the entire state and region, Deborah Sykes, a young white newspaper reporter, was assaulted, raped, sodomized and stabbed to death just blocks from where she worked in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
Although no physical evidence linked him to the crime, Darryl Hunt, a 19-year-old black man, was charged with the heinous crime based in large part by an eyewitness identification made by a former Klu Klux Klan member. In an atmosphere of racial division, Hunt was convicted by a jury of 11 whites and one black, and sentenced to life imprisonment.
The year was 1984.
Ten years later in 1994, DNA testing proved that Hunt did not rape Deborah Sykes, and cast serious doubts on his involvement in her murder. Yet he would go on to spend another ten years behind bars, all for a crime he did not commit.
It wasn’t until 2004, through the help of a young journalist’s probing and investigating, that Hunt was finally cleared. In that 20-year-span of being wrongfully imprisoned, his team of defense attorneys and public supporters never failed him. Now on the eve of his second anniversary of freedom, Hunt’s story is being told through the riveting HBO documentary feature film, THE TRIALS OF DARRYL HUNT.
More than a decade in the making, Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg’s THE TRIALS OF DARRYL HUNT documents the aftermath of a brutal/rape murder and harrowing wrongful conviction in the modern American South. Told from the point-of-view of three principal subjects, an enterprising investigative journalist; an unyielding defense attorney; and a wrongfully convicted man, the film offers an eye-opening, provocative and haunting examination of a community – and a criminal justice system – subject to racial bias and tainted by fear.
Chronicling this capital case from 1984 through 2004, with extensive personal narratives and exclusive footage from two decades, filmmakers Stern and Sundberg painstakingly frame the judicial and emotional responses to this chilling crime - and the implications surrounding Hunt’s conviction - against a backdrop of class and racial bias in America.
THE TRIALS OF DARRYL HUNT brings a unique personal look at one man’s loss and redemption while challenging the assumption that all Americans have the right to unbiased justice.
This documentary premiered on HBO in 2007.