Darryl Hunt: Physically Free, Mentally Still Locked-Up
In 1984, Darryl Hunt’s life completely changed. He was a 19-year-old black man drifting through his life in Winston-Salem, NC.
At 6:45 p.m. on September 11, two Winston-Salem police officers picked him up and took him downtown to what used to be City Hall on Church Street. Previously, they'd questioned him about a murder case they were investigating, but this was the first time their conversation landed Hunt in the Detective Division on the backside of the building.
After about four hours of police interrogation, physical and mental intimidation, Hunt was charged with the rape and murder of 25-year-old Deborah Sykes, a white copy editor for the Winston-Salem Journal.
"It was the last time I saw the streets of Winston-Salem," says Hunt as he reflects on how his life has changed over the past thirty years.
In 1985, Hunt was wrongfully convicted of felony murder by an all-white jury and sentenced to life. In 1994, DNA evidence cleared him of the rape but he had to continue serving time for the murder. Finally in 2004, Hunt was completely cleared and released from prison. Ten years later, he says he’s still haunted by the trauma of living behind bars for nearly 20 years.
"Prison makes you dependent on it. It tells you what to do, what time to get up, what to eat and when to eat," says Hunt. "You walk to a door, you expect a door to open because you've been trained to wait and the door will open. You can't open a door on your own."