The story of Kirk Bloodsworth was recently featured in The New York Times, and we are excited that he was the featured speaker at a Big Read Special Event on March 11. Bloodsworth spoke about his case and how he was the first person found innocent through post-conviction DNA testing. The Innocence Project is a national organization dedicated to reforming the criminal justice system through overturning injustices with research, litigation and DNA testing. Their goals are to exonerate wrongfully convicted individuals and to prevent future injustices.
Bloodsworth, a former Marine, was exonerated by DNA in 1993 of the rape and murder of nine-year-old Dawn Hamilton. He was sentenced to death in Baltimore County, Maryland, in 1985. After Kirk’s conviction was reversed in 1986, he occupied a cell directly above Kimberly Shay Ruffner, who was serving a sentence for another rape and who would later be linked by DNA to the rape and murder of the child.
The evidence linking Bloodsworth to the 1984 crime was the testimony of five witnesses who placed him either with the victim or near the scene of the crime. In addition, the prosecution introduced forensic evidence purporting to link a pair of his shoes to marks on the victim's body. But the Maryland Court of Appeals overturned Bloodsworth's conviction in 1986, finding that the prosecution had illegally withheld potentially exculpatory evidence from the defense. Kirk was retried and convicted again, and sentenced to two life terms.
In 1992, however, Centurion Ministries of Princeton, New Jersey, helped Kirk obtain court approval for DNA testing of biological evidence from the crime scene. The tests incontrovertibly established Kirk’s innocence, and he was released in June 1993. He was the first U.S. death row prisoner to be exonerated by DNA. In December 1994, Maryland Governor William Donald Schaefer granted Kirk a full pardon based on innocence, and he was one of the very few exonerated death row survivors to receive compensation from the state in which they were incarcerated.
In addition to speaking around the country for Witness to Innocence, Kirk has been an ardent supporter of the Innocence Protection Act (IPA) since its passage by Congress in February 2000. The IPA established the Kirk Bloodsworth Post-Conviction DNA Testing Program, a program that helps states defray the costs of post-conviction DNA testing.
This event was held in the Warner Student Life Center Building; Navesink Rooms, on March 11, 2013. Click here for the full listing of Big Read programs and intructions on how to register for events.
For more information on Kirk Bloodsworth and The Innocence Project.