Author Archives: Mark Godsey

Innocence Project Northwest Client Freed

Lester Juan Griffin Jr. walked free last week after serving 8.5 of a 24-year sentence for burglary and assault.  Story here, earlier decision in the case, overturning conviction, here.  Congrats IPNW!

DOJ recommends eyewitness ID best practices for all federal law enforcement

From DOJ press release:

(Washington, D.C. – January 6, 2017) Today Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates issued a memo to federal law enforcement agencies and prosecutors recommending that all departments adopt eyewitness identification procedures that have been scientifically proven to reduce misidentification.  The recommendations include those from a 2014 National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report that reviewed three decades of basic and applied scientific research on eyewitness identification as well as recommendations included in President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. The Innocence Project has long advocated for these eyewitness identification best practices as a way to prevent eyewitness misidentifications, which have contributed to 70 percent of the wrongful convictions later overturned by DNA evidence in the United States.


“We applaud Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates for taking such a critical stance to prevent wrongful convictions,” said Peter Neufeld, co-director of the Innocence Project, which is affiliated with Cardozo School of Law.  “The recommendations she has made to all federal law enforcement agencies and prosecutors are based on the best science on memory and identification and will go a long way toward preventing injustice and ensuring that the real perpetrators of crimes are identified.”


The recommendations to federal law enforcement agencies include:


  • The officer administering the identification procedure should be unaware of the identity of the suspect so that he or she can’t intentionally or unintentionally influence the witness;
  • The witness should be told that the perpetrator may or may not be present in theprocedure and that the investigation will continue regardless of whether he or she selects a suspect;
  • Photos should resemble the witness’s description of the perpetrator; and
  • Immediately following the procedure, the witness should be asked to describe in his or her own words how confident he or she is in the identification.


The recommendations apply to all federal law enforcement agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, United States Marshals Service, Federal Bureau of Prisons, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Drug Enforcement Administration and the Office of the Inspector General.  Nineteen states have already adopted these best practices through law, policy or court action, and many jurisdictions around the country have voluntarily adopted policies embracing these practices.


“By making these important recommendations, the Department of Justice has recognized the value of evidence-based practices which will improve the quality of evidence and protect the innocent. This is a step forward in a sea change that we have observed at the state level. Just four years ago, only 7 states had implemented best practices in this area; today, that number has nearly tripled to 19 states,” said Rebecca Brown, Innocence Project policy director.  “This is also reflective of leadership in the law enforcement community, from the International Association of Chiefs of Police’s Model Policy on Eyewitness Identification, which was issued in 2010, to the recommendations of the President’s Task Force of 21st Century Policing just this year, which called for implementation of scientifically supported procedures and specifically highlighted the recommendations of the NAS Report.”


According to the Innocence Project, eyewitness misidentification contributed to 70 percent of the 347 wrongful convictions that were later overturned by DNA evidence.  The real perpetrators were eventually identified in 98 (40 percent) of these cases.  While the innocent were languishing behind bars in these cases, the real perpetrators committed an additional 100 violent crimes.

European Innocence Network Conference Held in Prague


On June 16-17, a full house packed the meeting room at the Czech Parliament Building in Prague for the first European Innocence Network Conference.  Representatives were present from England, Wales, Ireland, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Poland, the Czech Republic, Greece, Armenia, Israel, Norway, Switzerland, Sweden and Germany, among others.  The program is available here, and included talks and panels on the causes of wrongful conviction across national borders, how to start an innocence organization, and the vision of future structure of the European Innocence Network moving forward.  Day One consisted of formal presentations and panel discussions, while Day Two was dedicated to discussing the structure, the by-laws, the sub-committees, and the future activities of the European Innocence Network.

The conference was sponsored by Daniel Vanek of the Innocence Program Czech Republic, and the Center for the Global Study of Wrongful Conviction at the University of Cincinnati College of Law (part of the Ohio Innocence Project).

The group agreed to meet again in the fall to continue discussing the structure of the Network, to hammer out membership criteria, and to elect board members, etc..  The Network will be housed at the University of Milan, Italy.

As a participant in the conference, I can attest that the energy in the room was high and spirits were soaring.  Everyone left the conference committed to continuing and growing the collaboration in the future.  The fall meeting will be held in either Italy or Dublin on dates to be determined.  The conference in 2017 will be held in Italy (either Rome or Milan), and the 2018 conference will be held in Amsterdam.

Below are some pictures from the event….


Monday’s Quick Clicks…

Wednesday’s Quick Clicks…

National Registry of Exonerations Launches Mobile App

The National Registry of Exonerations has just launched a free mobile app that notifies users each time an exoneration is added to the registry. It also provides mobile users with access to the exoneration counter and recently posted exoneration stories. The app is available for both iOS (iphone, iPad, etc.) and Android devices, just search “exonerations” in the App store and  Google Play.

2016 Innocence Network Conference San Antonio

Over 500 hundred people attended this year’s conference in San Antonio, making it the most attended conference in the history of the Innocence Network. Below are a couple highlights from the conference.

2,351 Years of Wrongful Imprisonment: 2016 Exoneree Induction Dinner


Of the 500 attendees,  150 were exonerees who together served 2, 351 years in prison and 153 years on death row for crimes they did not commit. This year’s induction ceremony saw the addition of 31 newly exonerated men and women, including Marvin Roberts, George Frese, Kevin Pease, and Eugene Vent, better known as the “Fairbanks Four,” whose release in 2015 after 18 years of wrongful incarceration gave The Alaska Innocence Project its first victory.

The remaining 27 inductees came from all over the country representing years of dedication and hard work by attorneys and students from several projects in the network:

Expansion of International Innocence Movement Continues…


Members of the International Innocence Network meet in San Antonio to discuss expansion

Representatives from Canada, U.S., Israel, Argentina, Switzerland, Italy, Taiwan, Thailand and Japan met in San Antonio to discuss developments in the International Innocence Movement and the creation of Innocence Networks on other continents.


The 2017 Innocence Network conference is scheduled to be held in San Diego. See you all there!


Oops, We Took 20 Years of Your Life by Mistake. Have a Nice Day: What society owes the exonerated


By: Jarrett Adams

The recent and tragic suicide of my friend and fellow exoneree Darryl Hunt is a stark reminder that no monetary compensation can make up for the psychological toll of wrongful conviction. When a wrongfully convicted person is released from prison, it’s often to a throng of reporters clamoring to capture images of an emotional reunion with his smiling family and friends, and lawyers. These images instill a sense of vindication and a happy ending. But what is too often unseen is how difficult it is to re-enter society after years or decades of confinement — especially if you are innocent. These are the unseen scars, and too many states pay them inadequate attention, or none at all.

In 1984, when he was 19, Darryl, an African-American man, was convicted of a crime he didn’t commit, the rape and murder of a young white woman in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, on the basis of a tentative eyewitness identification and the pressured testimony of a girlfriend who later recanted. It was a racially charged trial. Darryl consistently professed his innocence, even refusing a plea that would have set him free years before his 2004 exoneration. After DNA evidence exonerated him, Darryl had to file a lawsuit to win compensation; he was awarded a settlement of $1.7 million in 2007. North Carolina has since updated its compensation statute to provide job-training and college tuition for exonerated inmates, but compensation is now capped at $750,000, an inadequate amount for someone who paid for another man’s crime with 20 years of his life.

Darryl would later found the Darryl Hunt Project for Freedom and Justice to help the wrongfully convicted and he recently attended a Department of Justice “listening session”, at which he discussed the need for comprehensive medical assistance and Social Security for exonerees. Despite this advocacy, Darryl struggled to put back together the pieces of his own life.

I saw Darryl regularly at the annual Innocence Network Conference, a gathering of innocence organizations from around the country and world. Each time that we met, he would tell me how proud he was of me for becoming an attorney. We talked about our struggles and my frustration that Wisconsin has still not provided me compensation. (Of the 30 states with compensation statutes, Wisconsin’s law is one of the worst, with a high barrier to eligibility and a lifetime cap of $25,000, regardless of the number of years served.) These conversations made me grateful that I had come home at 26, a much younger man than Darryl, and still had a reasonable chance to put my life back together. I had been mentored by a fellow inmate who urged me to study my case and the law while in prison. When my conviction for sexual assault was discredited — with the help of the Wisconsin Innocence Project — after eight years of incarceration, I went to community college and then earned a law degree from Loyola University Chicago. My story is extraordinary and is not a validation of the ethos of pulling oneself up by the bootstraps. Yes, I worked very hard to get where I am, but luck and youth had a whole lot more to do with it. Many exonerees, like Darryl, come home in their 40s or older, and most are not as lucky as I was.

Lucky or not, we all find ourselves mentally battered from fighting to get out, to re-enter society and win compensation. Before prison, I was a 17-year-old who enjoyed cookouts and holidays with aunts and uncles. When I came home, many of those aunts and uncles were near death, and new family members had been born who knew me only as a face in a picture or a voice on the other end of a prison phone call.

In the months following my exoneration, I suffered from depression, anger and confusion. How could a system that reversed my conviction leave me with nothing – not even a mental or physical evaluation? I was released with no secondary education, no job training, no credit, no savings, no health insurance and no way to explain to future employers the 10-year-gap in my resume. My struggle was difficult at my age, but I can only imagine how disheartening it must be to win exoneration and come home at the age of retirement with absolutely nothing. Yet 20 states have no statute assuring that people wrongfully deprived of their freedom are helped back into society and compensated for the stolen years.

It is only fair and humane that every state provide the exonerated with reentry services such as education, job training, healthcare and other social services, and enact robust compensation statutes. In 2004, Congress and President Bush recommended compensation of $50,000 per year of unjust incarceration, and up to double that for years spent on death row. Adjusted for inflation, that is $63,000. It’s a small price to pay for a profound injustice. The unseen scars can never be fully healed; nonetheless, society has a moral responsibility to treat them.

Jarrett Adams, J.D. was wrongfully convicted of a sexual assault. After his release he earned a law degree and is now clerking in U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York.

Thursday’s Quick Clicks…

Tuesday’s Quick Clicks…

New Report Details Need for Greater Transparency and Accountability for Prosecutors

The Innocence project (NY) has announced the release of a new report calling for greater transparency and accountability for prosecutors.

On the fifth anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Connick v. Thompson, which granted prosecutors broad immunity for their misconduct, a coalition of innocence organizations today released a new report, Prosecutorial Oversight: A National Dialogue in the Wake of Connick v. Thompson, calling for greater transparency and accountability for prosecutors. Although prosecutors have long argued that there are sufficient systems in place to guard against misconduct, the report reviewed court findings of misconduct over a five year period for five states, documenting 660 findings of misconduct – a likely undercount given the difficulties in identifying this behavior. Of these cases, we know of only one prosecutor who was disciplined for his misconduct, and that took a change of law by the Texas Legislature. The report, which was produced in conjunction with forums featuring a broad array of criminal justice stakeholders in the five states surveyed, provides a list of recommendations that states should pursue to increase prosecutorial transparency and accountability.
This report was a collaborative effort by several organizations that oversaw the design and implementations of the research process. The organizations primarily responsible were the Innocence Project, the Veritas Initiative at Santa Clara University School of Law, Innocence Project New Orleans and Resurrection after Exoneration. A number of additional organizations also provided support in hosting and presenting the prosecutorial oversight forums. These included the Arizona Justice Project, the Pennsylvania Innocence Project and the Actual Innocence Clinic at the University of Texas School of Law.

Dutch Supreme Court reopens Knoops’ Innocence Project Case

The Knoops’ Innocence Project (NL) has announced the reopening of the case of Mr. Riebeek, who was convicted for 188 hours of community service for the smuggle of soft drugs and driving without a driver’s lisence.

In 2008, Mr. Riebeek was convicted for a crime he did not commit. At the time of his arrest, the suspect mentioned the name of Mr. Riebeek instead of his own. In 2014, a request for review was drafted and filed. Last week the Dutch Supreme Court accepted the request to reopen the case against Mr. Riebeek, based on the evidence the Knoops’ Innocence Project retrieved in order to show that he was wrongfully convicted.

Last Tuesday we received the good news from the Dutch Supreme Court. Mr. Riebeek is very happy as well and hopes that, in the end, the Court of Appeals will acquit him. The verdict in appeal will be expected next year.At the time of the arrest, the suspect mentioned the name of Mr. Riebeek instead of his own. His identity was never verified: no DNA was taken, no fingerprints were taken and they did not take any pictures of the suspect.

After the conviction, the real perpetrator stated several times that he committed the crime and not Mr. Riebeek. Next to that, an extensive investigation by Knoops’ Innocence Project showed that Mr. Riebeek had a conclusive alibi at the time of the crime. The investigation showed that this was a case of mistaken identity. The advocate-general at the Supreme Court advised that the request for review were to be accepted. The Supreme Court accorded to that conclusion and referred the case to the Court of Appeals of the district Arnhem/Leeuwarden.

Launch of Innocence Project Japan

This weekend I had the good fortune to speak at two events, one in Tokyo and one in the Kyoto/Osaka area, kicking off the Innocence Project Japan.  Given the enthusiasm, passion and energy witnessed during these events, I am quite optimistic that this project will before too long free the innocent and reform the Japanese legal system.  More than 120 people attended the kick-off symposium on Friday in Tokyo, and more than 150 attended the more extensive event in Osaka/Kyoto.  And both of these events received such great attendance during what was a three-day holiday weekend!  The team putting the IP Japan together include law professors, scientists, defense lawyers, and other professionals. Law professor Kana Sasakura of Konan University, who is also a contributing editor on this blog, and Engineering professor Mitsuyuki Inaba of Ritsumeikan University in Osaka, have taken the lead in organizing these efforts.

Japan has already seen a number of high-profile exonerations.  But they have more work to do.  Currently, police are allowed to interrogate suspects for days on end.  And there is no widespread use of electronic recording during these interrogations.  So interrogation reform aimed at curbing false confessions must be a primary goal of the new project.  But Japan has some advantages other countries don’t have.  For example, currently incentivized snitch testimony is not allowed, although proposals to introduce this type of troublesome testimony are lurking.  And given Japan’s world leadership in technology, the country has a solid stepping off point for ensuring access to DNA testing and proper forensic controls in the future.

A lawyer who obtained a recent exoneration in an arson/murder case gave a stirring presentation about how his defense team reconstructed the house in which the fire occurred, and then performed numerous experiments with the reconstructed house which demonstrated that the fire could not have happened in the way his client said in his confession.  This proved the confession to be false.  Interestedly, the prosecution then reconstructed the house as well, and performed it’s own experiment.  This too demonstrated that the inmate’s confession was false.  The case ended in an exoneration. The defense effort in this case was top-notch, and would have made any innocence organization anywhere in the world quite proud.

Members of the Taiwan Association for Innocence attended the event.  They spoke about their recent success, including one exoneration and two grants of retrial based on new evidence of innocence.  They presented the IP of Japan with a beautiful sculpture of a horse, which represents moving forward with speed.

Innocence organizations now exist in Japan, Taiwan, Singapore and the Philippines in Asia, with organizations forming in China and Thailand.  Asia may have enough innocence efforts at this point to begin coordinating efforts, or possibly form an Asian Network.  Whether they form a Network will depend on political realities, but they intend on working together to bring international collaboration to their work.

Here is the powerpoint presentation used by founder Inaba that you might find interesting.  It describes the structure of the new project:  IPJ_kickoff_Mar2016_Inaba

And here are some pictures from the events…..


OIP-u to Host Screenings of “The Syndrome” Across Ohio




Next week, OIP-u–The Ohio Innocence Project’s undergraduate advocate network–will be hosting screenings of the award winning documentary The Syndrome at separate events across the state of Ohio. After each screening there will be a Q&A session with investigative journalist Susan Goldsmith who produced the film and Kathy Hyatt whose story is featured in the film. Admission is free, no registration required, 1 Credit CLE for Ohio and 2 CLE credits for Kentucky. See below for screening times and locations.

About The Syndrome

Director Meryl Goldsmith teams with Award-winning investigative reporter Susan Goldsmith to uncover the origins of the myth of SBS and t
he unimaginable nightmare for those accused. This provocative film strives to shine a light on the men and women dedicating their lives to defending the prosecuted and freeing the convicted. Taking a look at what is truly happening behind the curtain, The Syndrome has been called “an eye-opening hybrid of medical drama & courtroom thriller” and prompts one to wonder – what would happen if I faced the same fate?

The Syndrome is an explosive documentary following the crusade of a group of doctors, scientists, and legal scholars who have uncovered that “shaken baby syndrome,” a child abuse theory used in hundreds of US prosecutions each year, doesn’t exist.

To view the trailer for the film click here
Event dates, times and locations:

March 28, 2016 – Cincinnati, OH University of Cincinnati College of Law College of Law, Room 114 • 5:30-8 p.m. Hosted by OIP-u University of Cincinnati Chapter

March 29, 2016 – Cincinnati, OH Xavier University Cintas Center, Conference Room 4/5 • Noon-2:30 p.m. Hosted by OIP-u Xavier University Chapter

March 29, 2016 – Dayton, OH University of Dayton Miriam Hall, Room 119 • 5:30-8 p.m. Hosted by OIP-u University of Dayton Chapter

March 30, 2016 – Columbus, OH Ohio State University Saxbe Auditorium • 6-8:30 p.m. Hosted by OIP-u Ohio State University Chapter

March 31, 2016 – Cleveland, OH John Carroll University Dolan Center, Room 202/203 • 6-8:30 p.m. Hosted by OIP-u John Carroll University Chapter

April 1, 2016 – Athens, OH Ohio University Schoonover Hall, Room 145 • 5-7:30 p.m. Hosted by OIP-u Ohio University Chapter




Monday’s Quick Clicks…

Exonerated death row inmate: Clinton wrong on death penalty

Sunday night at the Democratic Town Hall meeting televised on CNN, OIP exoneree and death row survivor Ricky Jackson asked Hillary Clinton to justify her position in favor of the death penalty.My wife and I were in the audience, and like everyone else in the room, we were enthused to be there and joined in all night with the excited, boisterous crowd. But when Ricky Jackson spoke and said, “I served 39 years in prison for a murder I didn’t commit,” and then added, “And several years on death row,” the entire room got quiet. As Ricky asked his question while choking up emotionally, the room choked up as well. You could hear it. You could see it. You could feel it. Ricky’s sincerity and presence, and the grace with which he asked his question despite the unbelievable hardships he has faced, grabbed the audience’s attention. Ricky apparently made an impression on Hillary Clinton as well. When she finished her talk and the cameras were turned off, she reached out from the stage and shook Ricky’s hand for a long time while slowly nodding her head and staring into his eyes. Finally, she said softly, “I wish you the best.”

In this CNN op-ed, Ricky shares his thoughts about Hillary’s answer to his question.

From: Exonerated death row inmate: Clinton wrong on death penalty

Ricky Jackson was a Cleveland teenager in 1975 when he was sent to death row for a murder he didn’t commit. He came within two months of his execution date when his sentence was reduced to life in prison because of a paperwork error. He was exonerated and walked free in 2014 after serving 39 years in prison — the longest sentence by an exoneree in U.S. history.

He is a sought-after speaker and recently gave a TED Talk at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC.

(CNN) At the CNN Town Hall meeting between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders last night, I had the privilege of asking Clinton how she could still support the death penalty in light of all the innocent people in this county in recent years who have been wrongfully convicted and sent to death row.

I said last night that I was “satisfied” with Clinton’s answer, but that does not mean I agree with her. While I respect her opinion and her honesty, I completely disagree with her position on the death penalty.

The fact that we too often send innocent people to death row in this country can no longer be debated.

I ought to know. I was one of them.

In 1975, I — along with my two childhood friends and co-defendants Wiley Bridgeman and Kwame Ajamu — was wrongfully convicted and sent to death row for the murder of a white businessman that occurred in our predominantly poor and black neighborhood in Cleveland. We spent more than two years on death row before having our sentences reduced to life in prison.

I came within two months of my execution date but was saved by a lucky technicality — the court made a mistake filling out the death penalty sentencing paperwork. Bridgeman and Ajamu later escaped death only because the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Ohio’s death penalty statute as unconstitutional.

They both came even closer to death — one of them came within a week of his execution date. If not for pure luck and chance, none of us would have been alive to see our exoneration nearly 40 years later.

Because of an investigation by the Cleveland Scene newspaper and the Ohio Innocence Project at the University of Cincinnati College of Law, we were vindicated and gained our freedom in November 2014. By that time, I had served 39 years in prison for a murder I didn’t commit — the longest sentence by an innocent person in U.S. history.

I know that the death penalty does not deter. That can no longer be seriously debated.

I also know that it is very expensive at a time when states are struggling financially and many are on the brink of bankruptcy. As an expensive government program with no proven track record of effectiveness, it is, indeed, the proverbial “bridge to nowhere.” But I also know that it sends innocent people to death row, and sometimes kills them.

Some of those likely innocents, such as Cameron Todd Willingham and Carlos DeLuna, have been executed at the hands of the government.

Other innocent inmates — in fact more than 150 of them — have been lucky enough to have been exonerated and freed before their execution. Furthermore, I learned from my time on death row that even the guilty are worthy of salvation.

As an innocent and scared 18-year-old boy sent to death row, it was only the kindness and humanity of death row’s guilty, who took me under their collective wing, that kept my sanity and maintained my faith in humanity. These inmates made horrible mistakes, and deserved to be punished, but they are not the animals our criminal justice makes them out to be.

A society should not be judged on how it treats its best, but rather on how it treats is lowest. And even the lowest are capable of incredible acts of humanity and are worthy of decency. They are worthy of God’s grace, just as they bestowed grace upon me.

When I asked Clinton why she still supports the death penalty, she said she supported it only for the worst of the worst: those who committed acts of mass killing or terrorism. I cannot accept that.

In cases such as those, the societal pressure to convict is at its highest. And when an intense pressure to convict is present, that is when the risk of convicting an innocent is greatest.

The death penalty is also not a deterrent in terrorism cases. In fact, death can serve the purpose of many terrorists who wish to become “martyrs” for their cause.

During all the decades I sat in prison as an innocent man, I saw societal views gradually change. Not too many years ago, a Democratic candidate could not publicly support same-sex marriage and stand a chance of getting elected in a general election.

Now, a Democratic candidate could not be taken seriously if he or she didn’t support same-sex marriage.

Likewise, no serious Democratic candidate should be able to support the death penalty. We have evolved. We have seen the evidence that the death penalty doesn’t work and that it kills the innocent.

Given this evidence, it is time that no candidate — Democrat or Republican — should be taken seriously if he or she supports capital punishment.

The fact that Clinton continues to hang on to this antiquated relic confuses me. She touts “criminal justice reform” — and much reform is needed — but she misses one of the lowest hanging pieces of fruit.

I said last night that I am an “undecided” voter. I hope that Clinton reconsiders her position on capital punishment before I do what I have been waiting my entire life to do: cast my first presidential vote as a free and vindicated man.

Exoneree Darryl Hunt Passes Away

Our condolences to Mr. Hunt’s family and friends.

From: Darryl Hunt found dead in Winston-Salem

By Richard Craver Winston-Salem Journal

Darryl Hunt, a man wrongfully convicted of murder in a highly publicized case in Winston-Salem and who became a symbol of forgiveness after being exonerated, was found dead Sunday morning by Winston-Salem police.

Officers received a report at 12:19 a.m. of a possibly deceased individual in the 2800 block of University Parkway in the College Plaza shopping center, police said in a news release. They found an unresponsive male inside of a vehicle. He was determined to be dead and identified as Hunt.

Police said in their only statement Sunday that the Criminal Investigations Division is investigating Hunt’s death. Hunt’s relatives have been notified.
Police had issued a missing-person notice Saturday after Hunt was reported missing by a friend. Hunt had last been seen in the area of 800 Garfield Court.
Hunt suffered from a medical condition that requires treatment, police said. A Silver Alert had been issued.

The Rev. John Mendez of Emmanuel Baptist Church, a close friend, said Sunday that Hunt had a diagnosis of cancer, but did not know which kind or if it was considered as terminal.
“He had been struggling with a lot of challenges,” Mendez said.

Jet Hollander, who served on a citizens committee in 2005-06 that addressed the Deborah Sykes case, said Hunt was diagnosed with prostate cancer about 18 months ago and had reached the stage 4 level. “He had been getting treatment in Atlanta, which was the reason he was periodically visiting there,” Hollander said.

“The burdens he had had become more intensified recently; they were constantly with him. He had been through so much.” When Mendez was asked if he thought Hunt harmed himself, he answered “we won’t know how he died until we get the medical examiner’s report.”

“He was depressed, that much we do know.” Mendez said Hunt was hurt by the separation from him wife, April. The couple had been married since 2000 but separated in May 2014. Mark Rabil, his defense attorney, said the Hunts were divorced in January.

“He was definitely wounded by that situation,” Mendez said. “He loved April.”
Mendez and attorney Larry Little, another close friend, went to the scene after being informed of the discovery of Hunt’s body. Mendez said he had been up all night when he spoke with the Journal.

“Darryl had a lot of pride, dignity and didn’t put himself out there for his own care,” Mendez said. “He was trying to make some sense out of his life.”

Forsyth County Coroner’s Office said an autopsy on Hunt was expected to be performed this morning. Police said Saturday that Hunt had been seen driving a 1999 white Ford truck with the license plate BDJ-9685. The vehicle is owned by Little. Police dispatchers did not comment when asked if the vehicle that Hunt was found in was Little’s truck, but Mendez said it was.

The Rev. Carlton Eversley of Dellabrook Presbyterian Church said Sunday that Hunt was known to stay out of touch for a day or two, “but nothing like this.”
Eversley said that he, Mendez and Little took time from attending a political rally Saturday morning to pray for Hunt’s well being.

Eversley said he did not believe foul play was involved. He also believed Hunt was dealing with depression. “I don’t think anyone did anything to Darryl,” Eversley said. “His death is a great loss for me, personally, and for our community.”

Hunt was wrongfully convicted in 1985 of the murder of Deborah Sykes, a copy editor at the Sentinel, Winston-Salem’s former afternoon newspaper. Sykes’ body was found on a grassy slope off West End Boulevard, 1½ blocks from the newspaper. She had been stabbed 16 times and raped.

At his original trial, Hunt was convicted of first-degree murder and barely escaped getting the death penalty. The conviction was overturned, and he was tried again in Catawba County in 1990, and again he was convicted.

After 19 years in prison, Hunt was exonerated in February 2004 after DNA evidence led police to Williard Brown, who confessed to the killing. After he was exonerated, Hunt was pardoned by then-Gov. Mike Easley. The city of Winston-Salem awarded him more than $1.6 million and released a report from a citizens review committee that uncovered a myriad of mistakes in the police investigation. The state awarded him more than $300,000.

In 2005, Hunt founded The Darryl Hunt Project for Freedom and Justice Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating the public about criminal justice reform opportunities, advocating for the wrongfully convicted, and providing resources to support individuals recently released from prison.

Hunt was the subject of the 2006 documentary, “The Trials of Darryl Hunt.’’

Hunt worked on the case of Kalvin Michael Smith, who was convicted on armed robbery and assault charges in 1997 in the beating of Jill Marker at the Silk Plant Forest store in Silas Creek Crossing shopping center. Smith has waged a long fight to win a new trial.
In September 2014, April Hunt filed a request for a 50-B domestic-restraining order against Hunt that was never granted. She accused Hunt of forcing his way into their house, scuffling with her and pushing her twice before leaving.

Darryl Hunt, in a response, denied the allegations and said April Hunt attacked him from behind after he had come to the house looking for his lawn mower. He was staying at a friend’s house and his friend’s lawn mower had broken down, Hunt said in court papers.
The Hunts filed a joint notice of voluntary dismissal with prejudice in October 2014, which meant she cannot re-file the restraining order. Under a different consent order, they agreed to not have contact with each other.

Jim O’Neill, Forsyth’s district attorney and a Republican candidate for attorney general, said in a statement Sunday that he hopes Hunt “finds the peace in eternity that escaped him in life. I extend my heartfelt condolences to his wife, family, friends, and the community he meant so much to.”

Eversley said Hunt “was snatched up at a young age by the injustice of the legal system.”
“He emerged from prison a man of grace and forgiveness with a remarkable lack of anger and bitterness.”

“As a practicing Christian, I don’t know if I could have done what Darryl did.”

“He was very determined to do his best to right wrongs and to help those leaving prisons have a better life with his project,” Eversley said.

Monday’s Quick Clicks…

Faulty Convictions in California Lead to 2,346 Years of Wrongful Imprisonment and $282M+ in Costs Over 23 Years, New Study Finds

Below you will find a joint press release issued today by the three California-based Network organizations in support of the important report released by Rebecca Silbert, John Hollway and Darya Larizadeh, Criminal (In)justice: A Cost Analysis of Wrongful Convictions, Errors and Failed Prosecutions in California’s Criminal Justice System. The report examines 692 faulty convictions in California over the span of 23 years and seeks to quantify the costs and outline the causes.
Faulty Convictions in California Lead to 2,346 Years of Wrongful Imprisonment and $282M+ in Costs Over 23 Years, New Study Finds
The Northern California Innocence Project (NCIP), the California Innocence Project (CIP) and Loyola’s Project for the Innocent (LPI) welcome today’s release of Criminal (In)justice: A Cost Analysis of Wrongful Convictions, Errors and Failed Prosecutions in California’s Criminal Justice System by Rebecca Silbert, John Hollway, and Darya Larizadeh. This groundbreaking study found 692 faulty convictions in California between 1989 and 2012, resulting in 2,346 total years of wrongful imprisonment and more than $282 million in wasted costs. While attempting to quantify the impact of faulty conviction, the report notes that the human costs of faulty conviction are immeasurable.Eight categories of error—including eyewitness misidentification, official misconduct and ineffective assistance of counsel—are highlighted in the study, which also emphasizes the need for statewide policies to address the causes of error. The study recommends, among other solutions, evidence-based eyewitness identification practices, noting the solid research in support of such practices. The study also notes the opportunity California has to implement policy reforms that build on the consensus represented by the 2008 California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice (Commission) recommendations.

NCIP agrees. “For close to a decade, we have had a detailed road map available for effective criminal justice reforms in the form of the 2008 recommendations from the Commission. But as those reforms have not been adopted or implemented, faulty convictions continue to take place and errors continue to be made,” says NCIP Executive Director Hadar Harris. “This important new study shows that, as a result, the State of California has wasted millions of dollars in taxpayer funds and destroyed decades of innocent peoples’ lives.”

The study was not limited to cases in which a claim of innocence was made; the authors noted that California’s uniquely difficult standard for proving actual innocence would restrict the evaluation’s parameters too much. Instead, the evaluation included all felony convictions that were reversed in the time period and in which charges were subsequently dismissed or the defendant acquitted.

“This study shows how pervasive the causes of wrongful convictions can be, and how some simple, commonsense reforms would both save taxpayers money and strengthen our system to make sure innocent people do not go to prison,” said Justin Brooks, Executive Director of the California Innocence Project.  “The conclusions and recommendations found here should not be read as a criticism of current practices, but rather a way to open an earnest dialogue concerning the long-term effects of wrongful convictions and how to change things for the better.”

NCIP, CIP and LPI actively support criminal justice system reforms that rectify and prevent wrongful convictions.  Reform efforts include statewide implementation of evidence-based eyewitness identification practices and mandatory videotaping of custodial interrogations.

“There are some very real costs to wrongful convictions.  Of course, the most significant costs are to the individuals whose cases are not handled fairly by the judicial system.  But there are also costs to the public and criminal justice system itself,” said Laurie Levenson, who holds the David W. Burcham Chair in Ethical Advocacy at Loyola Law School. “Everyone profits when the police, prosecutors and defense lawyers act zealously and honestly to ensure that a defendant’s rights are protected.  Loyola’s Project for the Innocent is dedicated to rectifying wrongful convictions and preventing future injustices.”

For more information about NCIP’s, CIP’s and LPI’s exoneration efforts and policy initiatives, please contact:

NCIP Policy Director Lucy Salcido Carter at or 650-400-4364 (Cell).
CIP Associate Director Alex Simpson at or (619) 515-1525.
LPI’s Legal Director Paula Mitchell at or (213) 736-8143.

About the Northern California Innocence Project

The Northern California Innocence Project’s (NCIP) mission is to create a fair, effective, and compassionate criminal justice system and to protect the rights of the innocent. NCIP is a project of Santa Clara University School of Law.  NCIP is a member of the Innocence Network, an affiliation of independent organizations (including the Innocence Project, located in New York) dedicated to providing pro bono legal and investigative services to individuals seeking to prove innocence of crimes for which they have been convicted, and working to redress the causes of wrongful convictions. Since its founding in 2001, NCIP has attained justice for 18 innocent people who had collectively spent more than 230 years in prison. For more information, please visit

About the California Innocence Project

The California Innocence Project (CIP) is a law school clinical program at California Western School of Law dedicated to releasing wrongfully convicted inmates and providing an outstanding educational experience to the students enrolled in the clinic.  Its three missions are: to free innocent people from prison; to provide outstanding training to our law students so they will become great lawyers; and to change laws and procedures to decrease the number of wrongful convictions and improve the justice system.

Founded in 1999, CIP reviews more than 2,000 claims of innocence from California inmates each year. Students who participate in the year-long clinic work alongside CIP staff attorneys on cases where there is strong evidence of factual innocence. Together, they have secured the release of many innocent people who otherwise may have spent the rest of their lives in prison.  For more information, please

About Loyola’s Project for the Innocent

The Loyola Law School Project for the Innocent (LPI) investigates and litigates cases of wrongful conviction.  LPI’s clients are men and women who are serving decades-long or life sentences in California prisons for crimes they did not commit.  LPI is a proud member of  the Innocence Network and is dedicated to providing pro bono legal and investigative services to indigent individuals seeking to prove their innocence.  LPI’s social justice mission is also dedicated to reforming our criminal justice system to eradicate the primary causes of wrongful convictions.  For more information, please visit

Lucy Salcido Carter, Northern California Innocence Project (NCIP) Policy Director,, 650-400-4364 (Cell) orAudrey Redmond, NCIP Communications Director,, 408-396-1360 (Cell)

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