In May 1985, a Black teenager in Winston-Salem, N.C. named Darryl Hunt was falsely convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the rape and murder of a young white copyeditor at the local paper. Many in the community believed him innocent and crusaded endlessly for his release even as two subsequent trials reinforced his sentence. Finally, in 2003 an award-winning series of articles by Phoebe Zerwick in the Winston-Salem Journal led to the DNA evidence that exonerated Hunt, and the acclaimed 2006 documentary, The Trials of Darryl Hunt, made him known across the country and brought his story to audiences around the world.
But Hunt’s story was far from over. As Zerwick poignantly reveals, it is singularly significant in the annals of the miscarriage of justice. Part true crime drama, part chronicle of a remarkable life cut short by systemic prejudice, Beyond Innocence powerfully illuminates the sustained catastrophe faced by an innocent person in prison and the civil death every ex-prisoner experiences attempting to restart their lives. Freed after nineteen years behind bars, Darryl Hunt became a national advocate for criminal justice and a beacon of hope for so many—until he could bear the burden no longer and took his own life.
Fluidly crafted by a master journalist, Beyond Innocence makes an urgent moral call for an American reckoning with the legacies of racism in criminal justice and the human toll of the carceral state.