Kirk Bloodsworth and the Demise of the Death Penalty

Kirk Bloodsworth

Kirk Bloodsworth is the first American sentenced to death row who was exonerated by DNA fingerprinting. (Photo: MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/GettyImages)

The New York Times today profiles Kirk Bloodsworth, a man who once faced execution for what he describes as “the most brutal murder in Maryland history.” He was innocent, and thanks to the development of DNA testing, was proven so and freed. Equally as important, the real killer was identified.

Kirk Bloodsworth was lucky. Many inmates sentenced to die in this country do not have scientific evidence like DNA with which to prove their innocence.  Only 18 of the 142 death row exonorees over the last 40 years have been set free due to DNA evidence.  During that time, many others have been executed despite doubts about their guilt, but without testable DNA evidence that could prove their innocence to the high standard our courts require.

As long as the death penalty exists, the risk of executing the innocent will be all too real. So Kirk Bloodsworth has made it his mission to abolish the death penalty, both in his home state and – as advocacy director for Witness to Innocence – throughout the country.

Success in Maryland seems closer than ever. And across the country, as people become more familiar with harrowing stories like Kirk’s, support for and use of the death penalty continues to decline.

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One thought on “Kirk Bloodsworth and the Demise of the Death Penalty

  1. While not besmirching the sorrow that the parents of that poor child must have endured, I find Kirk Bloodsworth's story equally harrowing. 142 exonerated individuals coupled with 39 questionable executions ought to be more than enough reason to abolish the death penalty in this day and age. Let's punish felons while they are alive – that will surely enable us to punish the worst and allow for the release of an innocent should the need arise.
    I wish O'Malley, the NCPP and all other relevant organisations the very best of luck in Maryland and am hopeful that they will soon become the 18th state to abolish the death penalty, and am also pleased to see repeal efforts gaining momentum elsewhere in Montana, Colorado, New Hampshire and Oregon.