Former Death-Row Inmate Kirk Bloodsworth Speaks Out Against System

Started by AnneTheBelgian, February 27, 2012, 03:04:13 PM

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February 27, 2012, 03:04:13 PM Last Edit: February 27, 2012, 03:12:35 PM by AnneTheBelgian

Former death-row inmate speaks out against system


Monday, February 27, 2012

Wrongfully convicted twice for a child rape and murder he did not commit, Kirk Bloodsworth has dedicated his life to freeing other people who suffered a similar fate.

"Think about how you would feel and magnify it a million times and that would get you close," Bloodsworth, 51, of Mt. Ranier, Md., said Sunday before speaking at a forum sponsored by Pittsburgh Faith in Action Against the Death Penalty at Mt. Lebanon United Methodist Church. "It was the most God-awful feeling I ever had."

He was the first death row inmate in America to be exonerated and freed by DNA evidence. After his 1993 release, he became an activist, public speaker and consultant for Maryland Citizens Against State Executions, a coalition of groups and individuals opposed to the death penalty in that state.

In 1984, he was an honorably discharged, three-time discus champion in the Marines when he was arrested in connection with the rape and murder of Dawn Hamilton, 9, in Baltimore County. Five witnesses said he was the was the last person to see the little girl alive.

"The death penalty is a stark reminder that if it can happen to an honorably discharged Marine like me, it can happen to anybody in this room," Bloodsworth told about 120 people attending the forum. He wore a tie bearing the pattern of a DNA strand.

He recalled when his mother died and he was allowed to view her body for five minutes while wearing handcuffs and shackles. She did not live long enough to learn of his exoneration.

The first time he was convicted, Bloodsworth was sentenced to death. After receiving a new trial because the prosecutor had withheld evidence, he was convicted again and sentenced to two life terms. He served nine years in prison before his release.

Bloodsworth said the witnesses initially described the killer as 6-foot-5 with curly blond hair. He said he is about 6 feet tall, and his hair back then was "as red as a fireplug."

In 1992, Centurion Ministries of New Jersey helped him get court approval for DNA testing that provided biological evidence of his innocence. Such testing was not available at the time of his trial.

The state paid Bloodsworth $300,000 for wrongful imprisonment, or $92.39 a day, according to the Northwestern University Center on Wrongful Convictions.

"They wanted somebody for this crime, and I was the one," he said. "The real killer was caught several years later after I was released."

In 2003, DNA testing showed the killer was Kimberly Shay Ruffner, who arrived at the Maryland prison just a month after Bloodsworth and knew of Bloodsworth's fight to prove his innocence.

Bloodsworth is one of more than 130 death row inmates freed by DNA evidence. Six are from Pennsylvania.

In 2000, Congress set up the Kirk Bloodsworth Post-Conviction DNA testing program to help defray the costs for states to do DNA testing, part of the Innocence Protection Act.

The Bloodsworth program has been instrumental to getting four people out of prison who are innocent, he said.

"Obviously, I'm against the death penalty and work for criminal justice reform," Bloodsworth said. "I keep working to make this system better."

Photo : Kirk Bloodsworth







Is the claim that 130 death row inmates were released due to DNA evidence accurate?  I know a few have, but I question that high number.

The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people's money - Margaret Thatcher
The most terrifying words in the English language: "I'm from the government and I'm here to help." - Ronald Reagan

Granny B

Is the claim that 130 death row inmates were released due to DNA evidence accurate?  I know a few have, but I question that high number.


From the Innocence Project website:

Facts on Post-Conviction DNA Exonerations

[Print Version]

There have been 289 post-conviction DNA exonerations in the United States.

The first DNA exoneration took place in 1989. Exonerations have been won in 35 states; since 2000, there have been 222 exonerations.

17 of the 289 people exonerated through DNA served time on death row.

The average length of time served by exonerees is 13.5 years. The total number of years served is approximately 3,800.

The average age of exonerees at the time of their wrongful convictions was 27.

Races of the 289 exonerees:

180 African Americans
82 Caucasians
21 Latinos
2 Asian American
4 whose race is unknown

The true suspects and/or perpetrators have been identified in 139 of the DNA exoneration cases.

Since 1989, there have been tens of thousands of cases where prime suspects were identified and pursued--until DNA testing (prior to conviction) proved that they were wrongly accused.

In more than 25 percent of cases in a National Institute of Justice study, suspects were excluded once DNA testing was conducted during the criminal investigation (the study, conducted in 1995, included 10,060 cases where testing was performed by FBI labs).

About half of the people exonerated through DNA testing have been financially compensated. 27 states, the federal government, and the District of Columbia have passed laws to compensate people who were wrongfully incarcerated. Awards under these statutes vary from state to state.

22 percent of cases closed by the Innocence Project since 2004 were closed because of lost or missing evidence.

About 80 percent of wrongful conviction cases overturned through DNA testing were single perpetrator crimes. Nearly 75 percent of the single perpetrator crimes involved eyewitness misidentifications, and about 75 percent of them were non-homicide cases. In about half of the single perpetrator cases, the real perpetrator has been identified.

Leading Causes of Wrongful Convictions
These DNA exoneration cases have provided irrefutable proof that wrongful convictions are not isolated or rare events, but arise from systemic defects that can be precisely identified and addressed. For more than 15 years, the Innocence Project has worked to pinpoint these trends.

Eyewitness Misidentification Testimony was a factor in nearly 75 percent of post-conviction DNA exoneration cases in the U.S., making it the leading cause of these wrongful convictions. At least 40 percent of these eyewitness identifications involved a cross racial identification (race data is currently only available on the victim, not for non-victim eyewitnesses). Studies have shown that people are less able to recognize faces of a different race than their own. These suggested reforms are embraced by leading criminal justice organizations and have been adopted in the states of New Jersey and North Carolina, large cities like Minneapolis and Seattle, and many smaller jurisdictions. Read more.

Unvalidated or Improper Forensic Science played a role in approximately 50 percent of wrongful convictions later overturned by DNA testing. While DNA testing was developed through extensive scientific research at top academic centers, many other forensic techniques - such as hair microscopy, bite mark comparisons, firearm tool mark analysis and shoe print comparisons - have never been subjected to rigorous scientific evaluation. Meanwhile, forensics techniques that have been properly validated - such as serology, commonly known as blood typing - are sometimes improperly conducted or inaccurately conveyed in trial testimony. In other wrongful conviction cases, forensic scientists have engaged in misconduct. Read more.

False confessions and incriminating statements lead to wrongful convictions in approximately 25 percent of cases. In 35 percent of false confession or admission cases, the defendant was 18 years old or younger and/or developmentally disabled. Twenty-two of the first 265 DNA exonerees pled guilty to crimes they did not commit. The Innocence Project encourages police departments to electronically record all custodial interrogations in their entirety in order to prevent coercion and to provide an accurate record of the proceedings. More than 500 jurisdictions have voluntarily adopted policies to record interrogations. State supreme courts have taken action in Alaska, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and Wisconsin. Illinois, Maine, New Mexico, and the District of Columbia require the taping of interrogations in homicide cases. Read more.

Informants contributed to wrongful convictions in 19 percent of cases. Whenever informant testimony is used, the Innocence Project recommends that the judge instruct the jury that most informant testimony is unreliable as it may be offered in return for deals, special treatment, or the dropping of charges. Prosecutors should also reveal any incentive the informant might receive, and all communication between prosecutors and informants should be recorded.
" Closure? Closure is a misused word in the English language.  There is no such thing as closure for the family of a murder victim.  There will never be any closure for the death of our loved ones until we are dead ourselves.  The families have a lifetime sentence of anguish and sadness." 
Susan Levy


Not surprised the original article above is a tad bit misleading and over reaching.  However, I am happy that the truth for the 17  innocent on DR were discovered, proof that the system works.

The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people's money - Margaret Thatcher
The most terrifying words in the English language: "I'm from the government and I'm here to help." - Ronald Reagan

Angelstorms OL'Man

WoW 17 That's like what 4-6 %. I can live with that. Butt let us wonder to what degree was the DNA exoneration? Was it they played no part what so ever? Or just didn't kill ? or was it a get out of jail be because of a technicality? Meaning they should die but thee DA was late with some thing. All the info one needs they always leave out.
This was designed to hurt....Its a SEAL Candace unless you have been there yo will never understand...

Elric of Melnibone

A lot of the people that got out were released on a technicality, but it does not mean they are out walking the streets.  Most are still serving time, just not with a death sentence over their heads.
You can lead an ass to water and if you fight long and hard, you can make it drink.  But at the end of the day, after all the fighting, it is still an ass.

Banned from PTO 3 times so far for life.

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