The director of Wake Forest University's journalism program explores the wrongful conviction, 19 years' imprisonment, release and ultimate suicide of Darryl Hunt, a Black man who was falsely convicted for the rape and murder of a white woman in Winston-Salem, N.C.
Zerwick’s research is exemplary, and the story is a strong one. Beyond Innocence could have been more compelling if she had used more novelistic techniques, the way the best narrative non-fiction does, to place the reader in, as Hamilton, put it, 'the room where it happened.' But she had a lot to overcome with uncooperative participants and scenes long gone cold.
The book’s reconstruction of Hunt’s last days is a powerful reminder of incarceration’s effects on the large numbers of Black Americans who have spent time behind bars ... Zerwick’s portrait of Hunt is a reminder of the trauma caused by the American justice system and offers an essential narrative of the lasting impacts of incarceration.
While release from prison is often considered a happy ending, Hunt’s tale does not conclude there. Instead, Zerwick tracks Hunt’s life as an exoneree and dedicated activist, whose advocacy helped lead to substantive reform for death row inmates until the burden of his trauma led tragically to his taking his own life. Zerwick’s portrait of Hunt humanizes all who are incarcerated, opening out into a well-researched, frustrating, inspirational, and heartbreaking look at profound issues of equality and justice and how racism and injustice destroy lives.