In 1985, Kirk Bloodsworth was sentenced to death for raping, beating and murdering a nine-year-old girl in Maryland. He had been convicted based on the testimony of at least five eyewitnesses who said both during the investigation and at trial that they had seen him with the victim. But, as it turns out, the supposed witnesses were wrong; Bloodsworth was innocent. In 1993, DNA post-conviction testing excluded him as the perpetrator, and, after serving eight years in prison for a crime that he did not commit, Bloodsworth was released and cleared of all wrongdoing.
Earlier this week, Senator Lisa A. Gladden and State Delegate Joseline A. Peña-Melnyk wrote an op-ed piece for
in which they discuss the Bloodsworth case and call for immediate reform to police line-up procedures so as to prevent future wrongful conviction cases.
Gladden and Peña-Melnyk are sponsoring two bills, Senate Bill 860 and its companion bill, House Bill 1200, to legally mandate that law enforcement throughout the state of Maryland implement scientifically proven practices developed by the U.S. Department of Justice and the International Association of Police Chiefs, such as double-blind administration lineups, during criminal investigations. In reference to the bills, they wrote:
We owe it to Bloodsworth, and the residents of this state, to do everything in our power to protect the innocent from wrongful convictions and ensure the true perpetrators of violent crimes are brought to justice. . . . These reforms will benefit both the innocent and law enforcement officials in our state. Reforms to lineup procedures can help reduce the valuable time and resources wasted pursuing an innocent individual following a misidentification. Moreover, public safety is ensured when the focus of police inquiry is steered toward the actual perpetrators of crimes, rather than toward an innocent person, leaving the true perpetrators of crimes free to commit additional crimes.
According to the op-ed, the Maryland General Assembly actually passed a law in 2007 requiring law enforcement agencies in the state to draft a written policy that conforms to the U.S. Department of Justice’s eyewitness procedures guidelines, but “a recent survey of law enforcement agencies revealed that only 30 percent of Maryland’s 156 police agencies and 24 sheriffs’ offices have adopted the blind administration of lineups as a best practice.”
SB 860 was scheduled to be heard by the Senate on Tuesday, and HB 1200 is slated to be heard by the House next Thursday.
Supporting Gladden’s and Peña-Melnyk’s call for lineup reform, the
published an editorial detailing the reasons why double-blind lineups work to prevent innocent people from being mistakenly identified as suspects, and asking Maryland’s General Assembly to strongly consider the passage of SB 860 and HB 1200 as means to “prevent[ing] police from going after people who have done nothing wrong . . . [and] keeping the focus on the truly dangerous people who commit crimes.”
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are the leading factor in wrongful convictions: /free-innocent/reform-through-the-courts