By Ret Boney
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — The City of Winston-Salem will pay Darryl Hunt $1.65 million in restitution for the “botched investigation” that led to his conviction and 18-year incarceration for a crime he did not commit, the Winston-Salem Journal reported Feb. 21.
Hunt, an African-American, was released from prison and received a pardon from the governor after DNA testing concluded he did not rape and murder a white female journalist in 1984, when he was 18 years old.
The city council, led by Mayor Allen Joines, apologized to Hunt, saying an investigation into the case revealed that city officers and employees fell short of the “standards this city holds and espouses,” the newspaper reported.
To prevent other wrongful convictions, Hunt founded the Winston-Salem-based Darryl Hunt Project for Freedom and Justice in 2004 and serves as its president.
The group’s mission also includes education and advocacy for a better criminal-justice system, and helping ex-offends successfully reenter society.
In the past Hunt has used some of his own money for the Hunt Project, says David Harold, the group’s interim executive director, but Harold does not know how Hunt plans to use the settlement funds, he says.
“Our board was very clear in our advocacy for him in this process,” says Harold. “We were advocating for him as a person, not for the project.”
Hunt was in California for the Film Independent’s Spirit Awards, for which a documentary about his case was nominated, and did not return calls for comment prior to publication.
Harold assumed the interim executive director position in early February, after the Raleigh-based A.J. Fletcher Foundation agreed to provide the project with $50,000 a year for two years to fund a development director position, plus $15,000 for strategic planning once the development director is in place.
The new position will oversee day-to-day operations, allowing Hunt to devote more time to advocating for changes to the justice system and helping former inmates successfully reenter the community, Harold says.
The group aims to have a permanent executive director on board by Sept. 1, he says.