Thursday, 22 February 2007

Kirk Bloodsworth, First Death Row Inmate Exonerated by DNA Testing, to Lecture

Kirk Bloodsworth
Kirk Bloodsworth, First Death Row Inmate Exonerated by DNA Testing, to Lecture

Kirk Bloodsworth will recount his experience with wrongful conviction on Monday, March 5, in Gannett Auditorium of Palamountain Hall.

Bloodsworth’s case was the first capital conviction to be overturned as a result of DNA testing in the United States. A former Marine, he was convicted of sexual assault, rape, and first-degree premeditated murder and sentenced to death in 1984. The ruling was appealed on the grounds that evidence was withheld at trial, and he received a new trial. He was found guilty again and sentenced to two consecutive life terms.

After Bloodsworth fought for years for a DNA test, evidence from the crime scene was then sent to a lab. In 1993, final reports from state and federal labs concluded that Bloodsworth's DNA did not match any of the evidence received for testing. By the time of his release, Bloodsworth spent nearly nine years in prison, including two on death row.

Almost a decade later, on September 5, 2003, the Maryland State’s Attorney announced that a DNA match had been made in the nearly 20-year-old case. That person pleaded guilty on May 20, 2004 to the murder for which Bloodsworth had been wrongfully convicted.

Today, Bloodsworth is a program officer for the Justice Project’s Campaign for Criminal Justice Reform and the Justice Project Education Fund, and he has been an ardent supporter of the Innocence Protection Act (IPA) since its introduction in Congress in February 2000. The IPA, which includes the “Kirk Bloodsworth Post-Conviction DNA Testing Program,” a program that will help states defray the costs of post-conviction DNA testing, was signed into law by President George W. Bush in October 2004.

Bloodsworth has spoken about the injustices of the capital punishment system on numerous television shows, including Oprah and Larry King Live, and his story has been featured in national publications, including the New York Times Magazine.

The dramatic story of Bloodsworth’s 20-year journey is chronicled in the book Bloodsworth: The True Story of the First Death Row Inmate Exonerated by DNA by Tim Junkin.

Bloodsworth's visit is sponsored by the Law and Society Program.

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