State News

Darryl Hunt, exonerated in murder case, remembered as 'peaceful, loving'

Posted March 14, 2016

— One day after Darryl Hunt, a man who was exonerated of the murder of a Winston-Salem newspaper editor, was found dead inside a car, those who knew him are remembering him as a peaceful man who loved helping others.

In a statement, police said that officers received a call early Sunday of a person believed to be dead inside a car on University Parkway, near the Wake Forest University campus. Officers found a man identified as Hunt unresponsive inside the car.

Mike Klinkosum, one of Hunt's defense attorneys, said Hunt is a client he will never forget.

"He had an incredible reserve of forgiveness in him, and there was not a hateful bone in his body," Klinkosum said.

After 19 years in prison, Hunt was exonerated in February 2004 after DNA evidence led police to Willard Brown, who confessed to the killing. After he was exonerated, Hunt was pardoned by then-Gov. Mike Easley. He was awarded a settlement of more than $1.6 million in 2007 and founded the Darryl Hunt Project for Freedom and Justice, an advocacy group for the wrongfully convicted.

Charmaine Fuller-Cooper remembers meeting Hunt as a young lobbyist. She said that, after his release, they maintained a close friendship for more than a decade.

"(He) was very sincere. He was very calm. He brought serenity into any room he walked into," she said of Hunt. "He did more for others than we could do for him."

After Hunt created his foundation, he continued to speak out against the death penalty and on the behalf of the wrongly convicted.

He also worked at the Duke University Law School's Wrongful Convictions Clinic.

"His message has been extremely well-received by the students," said Theresa Newman, co-director of the clinic.

Jami Lau, who also worked with Hunt at the wrongful convictions clinic, described him as caring and empathetic.

"He was really compassionate about helping people in the criminal justice system, those who were innocent and those who were coming out of prison," Lau said.

But the trauma of his case and health problems took their toll on Hunt.

"No one can get out of prison after 19 years and be unscathed. He was damaged psychologically," Newman said.

Fuller-Cooper said Hunt was an example of "how to save the world."

"But unfortunately, the world couldn't save (him)," she said.

On Saturday, police issued a missing person notice for Hunt, who suffered from a medical condition that required treatment and at that point had not been seen for nine days.

Friends said Hunt was depressed after being diagnosed with cancer 18 months ago and had recently gotten divorced.

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  • Anne Havisham Mar 15, 2016
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    I was at the Full Frame Film Festival in Durham when the documentary about his case, _The Trials of Darryl Hunt_ was shown. He and his then-wife answered some questions after the screening.

    I was deeply touched by them both. No one would have blamed them for bitterness or fury at the injustices committed against him. Their gentleness and quiet dedication to justice ---for themselves and others--- was remarkable.

    If there is any sort of justice and if there is an Afterlife, this man deserves a lot of peace there. He had far too little peace here.

    Rest in Power, Mr. Hunt.