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Kirk Bloodsworth: Convicted and Freed


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For or against the death penalty?
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|DRC| Death






Monday, February 26 2007, 17:27:35 #39570     Kirk Bloodsworth: Convicted and Freed


I watched a television program on this guy. I think it's quite a story and to think how technology has come on. It'll get to the point you will NEVER get away with murder.

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CNN.com wrote:
CAMBRIDGE, Maryland (CNN) -- Kirk Bloodsworth is a free man now. He is free to pursue a living as a crab and commercial fisherman in his hometown of Cambridge, on Maryland's rustic Eastern Shore. He got married last year and bought a new fishing boat two years ago.
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He lives simply and works hard -- just the type of life he dreamed of when he was incarcerated for nine years, twice convicted of brutally raping and killing a 9-year-old girl outside Baltimore in 1984. He spent one year awaiting trial, two years on death row and six years serving a life sentence.

Bloodsworth, 39, won his freedom after taking a DNA test. In 1992, when the science of forensic DNA testing was in its infancy, Bloodsworth pushed for a test in which the DNA in a small semen stain on the girl's panties would be compared to his DNA. It was not a match. The state of Maryland set him free and paid him $300,000 for wrongful imprisonment.

"They basically railroaded me," Bloodsworth said. "They put me on a rail and let me go where they wanted me to go....I was not involved. It's not fair for Baltimore County to do what they did to me and still not give me an apology. To this day, they won't."

Anti death-penalty experts say Bloodsworth was the first prison inmate in the United States who was on death row at some point to have been exonerated based on DNA evidence.

Wayne Smith, executive director of an anti-death penalty group in Washington, said there might have been a handful of others convicted of lesser crimes who got off using DNA evidence.

But he and other anti-death penalty advocates say Bloodsworth's case inspired other inmates who profess innocence. Today, hundreds of inmates across the country are seeking to be tested to prove they were wrongly convicted.

Robert E. Morin, the attorney who got Bloodsworth tested, said the DNA results made believers out of people who ignored Bloodsworth's assertions of innocence for nine years.

"Kirk, from the moment he was arrested to the time he was released, said he did not do it, he didn't know who did. Nobody believed him. Friday afternoon we got the results of the DNA tests. Monday morning he was out of prison -- and everybody believed him," said Morin, now an associate judge on the District of Columbia Superior Court.

"The scary thing is what if we hadn't gotten those DNA tests? He'd still be in prison saying he is innocent," Morin said.

"This is a very perplexing case because it makes you come to grips with how fallible the criminal justice system," he said. "I think the jury system is a great system but it does not mean they are right all the time."

Bloodsworth said he regrets that his mother did not live to see him walk out of prison on June 28, 1993. Jeanette Bloodsworth died of a heart attack at age 57 a few months earlier.

"I miss my mother very much," Bloodsworth said softly, choking up, as he stared into the distance through his wraparound sunglasses.

Meanwhile, with Bloodsworth's release, the state had to let go of the one person it was absolutely convinced had raped and killed little Dawn Hamilton on July 25, 1984. The case remains unsolved 16 years later.
A little girl, a big crime, the death penalty

The jury convicted Bloodsworth of first-degree murder and rape in March 1985. A Baltimore County Circuit judge sentenced him to death later that month.
Bloodsworth release from prison
Kirk Bloodsworth walks out of prison a free man in 1993, nine years after being wrongly convicted of raping and killing a nine-year-old girl in Maryland

Bloodsworth said he sympathizes with the girl's family, but he was not the monster who killed Dawn -- strangled her by stepping on her neck -- flung her panties on a tree and inserted a stick into her vagina. Dawn's battered body was found in some woods in the working class Baltimore suburb of Rosedale.

Baltimore County authorities were sure he was the culprit: He lived and worked near the crime scene; he was seen frequently walking near the woods; he resembled the police sketch of the suspect; he fled the area shortly after the crime.

"The more I got involved in preparing for the case ... the more convinced I was that we had the right guy," said Robert Lazzaro, one of the two prosecutors in the case, who is now in private practice in Baltimore County. "In my mind, he testified and acted consistent with someone who (was guilty). He didn't act like someone who was unjustly accused. ... I never would have prosecuted a case I didn't believe in."

Lazzaro said this week that Bloodsworth's features matched those of the man police were looking for: a tall man with a mustache and flaming red hair. Further, two boys identified Bloodsworth as the man they saw walk out of the woods around the time of the crime, Lazzaro said.

Bloodsworth argued that the suspect was described as a thin man, 6 feet 5 inches tall and blond. The thick-waisted Bloodsworth stands about 6 feet tall. He said he had bright red hair at the time. He said he had never seen Dawn.

Lazzaro said Bloodsworth returned to Cambridge some two days after the crime without telling anyone. He said Bloodsworth testified that he left "because his wife was angry that he had not bought her a taco salad from Taco Bell. I was like, 'Come again?' He didn't exactly help himself."

Bloodsworth said he left two weeks after the crime because his marriage had fallen apart and he wanted to be back among friends and familiar surroundings -- not because he wanted to escape the police. He said he told his mother-in-law that he was going home, adding that he was puzzled as to why his ex-wife filed a missing persons report.

Bloodsworth said the authorities were under intense public pressure to find Dawn's killer.

"They were really trying to correlate stuff that really didn't add up," he said in a recent interview aboard his boat. "I have thought about this 16 years and I cannot imagine that they would precipitate thinking I was guilty over ... saying I did a terrible thing. The terrible thing I said I did was leave my wife.

"They wouldn't take that as an answer. When they say they will use anything you say against you, that means they'll turn it around any way."

The girl's panties, which were found hanging from the tree a few yards from the battered body, were tested for biological evidence, said Ann Brobst, the other prosecutor.

With the technology available at the time, the FBI determined that the panties and the other evidence did not contain anything that would help or hurt the state's case against Bloodsworth, said Brobst, who remain an assistant state's attorney in Baltimore County.
The second trial and the life sentence

During their appeal to Maryland's highest court, Bloodsworth's lawyers raised doubts about the prosecution's case, saying information about other possible suspects was not revealed during the trial, Bloodsworth said.
DNA testing
Since being introduced in the U.S. in 1986, DNA testing has become an important tool for both prosecutors and defense attorneys and is widely used in thousands of cases per year

He said one man who more closely resembled the police composite showed up at a Baltimore hospital shortly after the crime, demanding psychiatric help because he had done something terrible.

Brobst said Baltimore County police chased down that lead and the other 100 or so leads they received, but turned up nothing. She recalled another lead about a "creepy guy" who used to hang out near the woods where Dawn was raped and killed.

Years later, when DNA technology improved, tests revealed that both those men's DNA was different from that found in the semen stain on the girl's panties, Brobst said. The DNA in that stain cleared Bloodsworth.

"Had we had the technology available at the time (of the crime) ... we would have had an opportunity to do things like DNA testing of all people at their home and things like that," Brobst said.

Bloodsworth felt a surge of hope when the court of appeals returned the case to the lower court to be retried.

But he lost again. This time, he received a life sentence.

Morin said his review of the Bloodsworth case showed that the circumstantial evidence was strong enough to convict his client. Morin did not represent Bloodsworth at the trial stage; he became Bloodsworth's attorney around 1991, long after Bloodsworth had exhausted his state appeals.

"This is not a case of jailhouse snitches. This is not a case of police planting evidence. This is a case of people making misidentification and the police believing they had the right guy," Morin said. "There is nothing constitutionally wrong with the trial."

"The prosecutors were absolutely convinced they had the right guy," he added. "There were all these other suspects, but to be truthful, Bloodsworth was a suspect as well because he looks like the composite. I do not want to say that this was not a flawless investigation. But a lot of the flaws in the investigation all got played out in front of the jury, not once but twice."

However, Morin was quick to add that Bloodsworth is "totally innocent."
The DNA door opens

In prison, Bloodsworth said he wept constantly over the depths to which his life had sunk. He wrote everyone from "Donald Trump to the president of the United States" proclaiming his innocence, hoping that someone "would pick up this letter and say, 'Wait a minute, let me talk to this guy.'"

"But nobody wants to listen to somebody who's an accused child killer," Bloodsworth said.

To preserve his sanity, he said, he wrote poetry and read some 3,000 books ranging from "gestalt psychology to Stephen King."

One of those books planted the DNA seed in Bloodsworth's mind. "The Blooding," by former Los Angeles cop Joseph Wambaugh, tells how British police used DNA to solve murders in the Yorkshire area. He read the book in 1987; a friend had mailed it to him.

He began thinking once again about the semen stain on the girl's panties. He talked to Morin about testing that semen stain for DNA. The stain was smaller than a dime.

Morin reminded Bloodsworth that the FBI had tested the panties in the 1980s but had found nothing.

In 1992, Morin sent the panties to California to Ed Blake, considered the father of forensic DNA testing in the United States. Blake headed the only private lab that was conducting DNA tests for criminal justice purposes at the time, Morin said.

Morin said Bloodsworth was lucky that the authorities had not destroyed the panties because of the earlier determination that it contained nothing of criminal value. The panties were locked up along with the rest of the evidence, and the stain had been air-dried. DNA can remain in dried samples of body fluid for years, Morin said.

Bloodsworth said Morin paid the $10,000 fee out of his own pocket; Bloodsworth's family had exhausted its life savings defending him and appealing his dual convictions.

A year later, in April 1993, the DNA results came back.

The lab said, "This is not his semen, he is excluded. I said, 'You're kidding me.' Then I called (Bloodsworth) and told him. ... Oh, it was a wonderful phone call, it was the type of phone call a lawyer dreams of. He started crying," Morin recalled.
Out of prison -- in style

Brobst said under the agreement between Bloodsworth's side and the state, any independent DNA test results had to be confirmed by the FBI. The FBI's tests also showed that the DNA was not Bloodsworth's.

The state dismissed the charges. Bloodsworth walked out of prison on June 28, 1993.

"It was just like a blur. I went in handcuffs and shackles to prison. I got out and I had a limousine waiting for me out in front; 98 Rock, a rock station there in Baltimore, had one of their DJs come there to take me around town, had a big cooler full of beer," Bloodsworth recalled. "It was something else."

The state paid Bloodsworth $300,000 for lost income, based on the rough calculation that he would have earned some $30,000 a year for the years from his arrest to his release.

Morin advised Bloodsworth against accepting the deal, saying the offer was too low. Bloodsworth also had reservations about the deal. He said he was angry that the state was not going to pay for emotional suffering and other damages.

But he took the money because he said he was too tired to put up a fight and also because he was eager to reestablish his life in Cambridge. As part of the deal, he had to sign an agreement not sue the state.

He returned to Cambridge, began dating his current wife, Brenda, married her a year ago, bought a modest fishing boat and began living the life he dreamed about in prison.
Free, but is he truly innocent?

Is Bloodsworth truly innocent? DNA or no DNA, Brobst and Lazzaro are not sure, though they said they don't want to see an innocent person behind bars.

They argue that it is unclear where the semen came from or when it got on the panties.

Lazzaro gave two scenarios: In the first scenario, Dawn puts her panties in the laundry hamper, where it gets mixed up with her dad's underwear. The girl, for whatever reason, takes the dirty panties out of the hamper and wears them on the day of her death. In the second scenario, two people raped and killed the girl; the other guy's semen got on the panties, "excluding" Bloodsworth.

"That semen stain could have come from anybody, either before or after the crime. The cumulative effect of all the evidence -- including his testimony -- leaves a bad taste in my mouth, still gives me pause. That DNA test has not diminished that pause," Lazzaro said. "As a legal matter he has been exonerated, but we'll never know if he didn't do it."


Link on CNN.com

---

If you got through all that, give yourself a pat on the back. I've added a poll, are you for against the death penalty?
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|DRC| Death






Monday, February 26 2007, 17:30:53 #39571     


My view is if you get convicted of 1st Degree Murder, you get the death penalty regardless. If it's second degree then life in prison without parole.
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|DRC| Wartex






Tuesday, February 27 2007, 00:34:20 #39572     


I'm for torture to death.
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|DRC| Messiah






Tuesday, February 27 2007, 00:36:54 #39573     


I think life is prison is much better than a death sentence. Why should they get an easy out.. let them rot and suffer for life!
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OLDie






Tuesday, February 27 2007, 09:13:38 #39575     


|DRC| Messiah wrote:
I think life is prison is much better than a death sentence. Why should they get an easy out.. let them rot and suffer for life!


Because it costs a ton of money to keep someone in prison for a life term. We have thousands of people on death row and maybe tens of thousands people who are in our system with 25 or more year sentences. How about $750k before adjustment for inflation for the 25 years... $60k per prisoner Dizzy

http://www.geocities.com/three_strikes_legal/prison_costs.html

And check out California's costs - http://www.worldpolicy.org/globalrights/dp/dp-cost.html

The Prisoner is not suffering we are, the public who abides by the laws, it costs us the taxpayers a billion plus to keep Prisons running and Prisoners with 3 squares and a place to sleep every night. There are only a few "hard labor" facilities anymore because we have a bunch of bleeding hearts Blah blah... Blah blah... that think our social rules should still apply to the prisoners?? Stoned

I say to the Grim Reaper - NEXT!! Mad
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Tuesday, February 27 2007, 12:15:01 #39576     


Too true old one. But Messiah has got a point, it'd be far more painful to spend life in prison than death. But hell, if you kill, you should get killed. What's your view then Wartex if you don't agree with mine?
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|DRC| Wartex






Tuesday, February 27 2007, 17:37:15 #39577     


The reason prisoners cost money because they don't generate revenue. Send them to fucking chalk mines with pickaxes like Russia did, and let them sweat until they drop. Watching TV, going to the library and eating for free is bullshit. Some people commit crimes in USA just to get into jail to eat and sleep there. Yes, there are beatings, ass-rape, but this is because of boredom, in max security prisons. If they were working all day I'd doubt they'd have any desire.
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OLDie






Tuesday, February 27 2007, 18:53:37 #39578     


I am all for making the scum of the earth work where they can't hurt others, cook up a scheme where they will cause problems, do something good for mankind - working in coal mines - refineries - or any other hostile type of job that is highly dangerous yet has benefits for the general public.
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|DRC| Messiah






Tuesday, February 27 2007, 19:34:38 #39579     


hard labor is a good alternative, but since this country cant decide what is humane and what isn't.. we will constantly have this toss up. Prisoners are people too, let us no forget, regardless of what crime they gave committed. The problem with the legal system is that it is NOT full proof. Innocent people do face the death penalty as well as (truly) mental disturbed people.

I do not think that killing people solves anything other than peace of mind. There is no EYE FOR AN EYE in this country. Oldies point (which is a good one) reflects the ideals of "red" states because its all about the $.

Arguments will continue like this forever because we have too many different views on life and how to handle situations not everyone can understand or interpret (ie. abortion, gay marriage and equal rights for that matter). We are a country divided by different morals and ethics.

As I see it all people have a certain set of rights. Even if they break the law and give up those rights according to the law, they still have HUMAN RIGHTS ( http://www.un.org/Overview/rights.html ) Which should not be thrown away.

There are other methods or incarceration which needs to be looked at. The problem is that people who commit crimes are disregarded by society. No matter how small or large your crime may be. you are judge as fairly as the law can provide and either way, you are labeled.

If you are found innocent of a sexual crime, you are still not innocent in the eyes of the people (MICHAEL JACKSON).

If you are found guilty, you are convicted and tossed into a prison system that has ZERO rehabilitation. Once you are freed from your sentence, you are then marked for life with no real chance to do anything like find an honest job with decent wages. (see The Shawshank Redemption)

As some of you may or may not know, I have spent time in jail. I was convicted of forgery many many years ago and received a felony. I can attest first hand how difficult it was to find a job at a younger age with a felony.

As of late, when i decided to continue my education, I was again confronted with the same scenario. I applied to two colleges: One was Suny Purchase and the other ( a more prestigious school) Fordham University. SUNY rejected me because of my felony as Fordham accepted me.
Go figure. You would think the School systems (especially a SUNY college) would encourage futher education, but this was not the case.

I am getting a bit off topic but I think you can understand some of what I am tying to say. Of course this all has to be dealt with on a case by case situation, but in the over all scheme of things... What is right?

Republicans are PRO LIFE but yet PRO CAPITAL PUNISHMENT. Ironic isnt it?
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|DRC| Death






Wednesday, February 28 2007, 13:43:13 #39581     


That's an interesting point Wartex, I'd rather that happened now you've said it than the death penalty. Is Russia realy that good? Very happy
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