News 06.28.12

Exoneree Anniversary: Kirk Bloodsworth

Today marks the 19th anniversary of

Kirk Bloodsworth

’s exoneration. Bloodsworth was the first person to be exonerated through DNA testing who had received a death sentence. He spent eight years in prison, much of it on death row. According to news reports, Bloodsworth exited the Maryland House of Correction, thrust his fist in the air and shouted “Fantastic!”
“I remember the day.” Bloodsworth says. “I imagine any exonerated person would remember the day they got out, as well as the day they went in. I remember that day so vividly. I had a jailhouse tan, meaning I was white as a fish and smelly at that time, but I was so happy. Out the door I went to a bank of cameras. Back in those days you know, this was a rarity, especially for a guy that had been on death row. I got picked up in a limousine by a local rock station here in Baltimore. I’ll never forget it. It’s been some heck of a ride.”
Bloodsworth’s case sounded a clarion call for criminal justice reform just as DNA testing’s potential to exonerate the innocent came to national attention. In 2003, with the help of Bloodsworth’s advocacy, Congress passed the Innocence Protection Act, including the “Kirk Bloodsworth Post-Conviction DNA Testing Program.” Bloodsworth grant funds have led to the exonerations of five people, most recently

Thomas Haynesworth

of Virginia. 
Today, Bloodsworth is an activist for criminal justice reform and a public speaker. Tuesday, July 2, he will speak on a panel, “Moving Away from the Death Penalty—Lessons from National Experiences” with Innocence Project Co-Director Barry Scheck before the United Nations High Commission on Human Rights. He’s also actively involved in the movement to abolish Maryland’s death penalty. 
Other exoneration anniversaries this week:
Sunday:

Verneal Jimerson

, Illinois (served 10.5 years, exonerated 6/24/96) 
Saturday:

Ronald Cotton

, North Carolina (served 10.5 years, exonerated 6/30/95)
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