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Man returns to share story of wrongful conviction

ROME TOWNSHIP — It’s a story of racial injustice, forgiveness and renewal that captivated students at Fairland High School last year.

Now Darryl Hunt, the lead character in that saga, will be back to share his story with a new class of freshman on Oct. 19 and also speak again to the students he met last fall. This time Hunt’s attorney, Mark Rabil, will accompany him on a day of lectures at Fairland High.

“Last time, several of the students were asking questions only his attorney could answer,” said Evelyn Capper, Fairland librarian who has organized the event.

In the early 1980s, Hunt from Winston-Salem, N.C., was convicted of the brutal stabbing and rape of Deborah Sykes, a young reporter for the city’s newspaper. Since Hunt is an African-American and Sykes was a white woman, it was a crime that rocked the city.

For almost 20 years Hunt stayed in prison until DNA evidence exonerated him and convicted another. His story has been captured in JoAnn Goetz’ book, “Long Time Coming, My Life and the Darryl Hunt Lesson,” and a documentary on HBO.

Goetz, one of Hunt’s teachers, believed in his innocence and fought for his freedom against significant opposition.

Goetz will also be at the Fairland event.

“We have all the freshmen reading the book and watching the HBO documentary,” Capper said.

Hunt and Rabil will speak to students at Ohio University Proctorville Center on Tuesday.

Today Hunt leads the Darryl Hunt Project for Freedom and Justice, a non-profit organization that aids individuals who have been wrongly imprisoned, helps ex-offenders gain life skills as they make the transition out of the prison system, and works to change the justice system to prevent the imprisonment of other innocent individuals.

“Darryl had a great story on forgiveness and we always need to be reminded about forgiveness,” Capper said. “This will be a refresher course on forgiveness and making choices.”