The notion that DNA evidence can convict the guilty and exonerate the innocent is well established in our "CSI"-savvy times. But the documentary "The Trials of Darryl Hunt" (7 p.m., HBO) shows that not even high-tech science can compete with a broken justice system.
In 1984, Hunt was arrested for the brutal murder and rape of Deborah Sykes, a copy editor for a newspaper in Winston-Salem, N.C. Syke's youth, gender and media connections ensured a well-covered case. The fact that she was white and Hunt was black also touched a nerve.
Even before Hunt was arraigned, some police officers began telling local politicians that they thought they had the wrong man. No physical evidence ever emerged linking Hunt to the rape. Still, he was tried and convicted - based largely on the eyewitness testimony of a former member of the Klan.
Ten years later, DNA evidence cleared him of any involvement in the victim's rape. But Hunt spent another 10 years in prison before being released in 2004.
The film is told from the perspective of Hunt and his attorney. More than 10 years in the making, "Trials" places much emphasis on the passage of time. The credits unfold with stop-motion photography. During the hourlong film, we watch the accused and his attorney go from young men to middle-aged men.
¢ "Ace of Cakes" (9 p.m., Food) wraps up its season with a trip to the Super Bowl. "Ace" has emerged as the culinary network's most popular show. I admire how "Ace" showcases creativity. But I could do with more information about baking and confection and fewer scenes of cake master Duff Goldman and his assistants goofing around in the snow, or at a Miami zoo.
¢ An old political adage suggests that most voters don't pay attention to candidates until after the World Series is over. Well, here we are barely out of spring training 2007, and candidates are meeting in the first Presidential Primary Debates (6 p.m., MSNBC) for an election in 2008 that is two World Series away! Brian Williams moderates, from South Carolina.
Tonight's other highlights
¢ A credit-card rejection stings on "My Name is Earl" (7 p.m., NBC).
¢ Betty's colleagues disappoint on "Ugly Betty" (7 p.m., ABC).
¢ Defective merchandise on "The Office" (7:30 p.m., NBC).
¢ A washed-up palooka expires in squalid circumstances on "CSI" (8 p.m., CBS).
¢ The staff caters to a well-connected patient on "Grey's Anatomy" (8 p.m., ABC).
¢ Liz faces a summer hiatus with Floyd out of town on "30 Rock" (8 p.m., NBC). Elaine Stritch guest stars as Jack's mother on the season finale.
¢ Four years after a kidnapping, the victim seems to have adjusted well, living as the son of his abductor on "Shark" (9 p.m., CBS).
¢ Kovak feels the pressure on "ER" (9 p.m., NBC).
¢ It comes down to Nick's choice on the season finale of "October Road" (9 p.m., ABC).
¢ "The Showbiz Show with David Spade" (9:30 p.m., Comedy Central) rehashes the week in entertainment.