Kirk Bloodsworth
Kirk Noble Bloodsworth is the first American sentenced to death row
Death row
Death row signifies the place, often a section of a prison, that houses individuals awaiting execution. The term is also used figuratively to describe the state of awaiting execution , even in places where no special facility or separate unit for condemned inmates exists.After individuals are found...

 who was exonerated by DNA fingerprinting, although his death sentence had already been commuted to two consecutive life sentences by the time his exoneration based upon DNA evidence was in the works.

An honorably discharged former Marine
United States Marine Corps
The United States Marine Corps is a branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for providing power projection from the sea, using the mobility of the United States Navy to deliver combined-arms task forces rapidly. It is one of seven uniformed services of the United States...

 and Maryland
Maryland is a U.S. state located in the Mid Atlantic region of the United States, bordering Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia to its south and west; Pennsylvania to its north; and Delaware to its east...

 resident, Bloodsworth was convicted in 1985 of sexual assault, rape, and first-degree premeditated murder
Murder is the unlawful killing, with malice aforethought, of another human being, and generally this state of mind distinguishes murder from other forms of unlawful homicide...

 for the 1984 rape and murder of a nine-year-old girl in Rosedale, Maryland
Rosedale, Maryland
Rosedale is an unincorporated community and a census-designated place in Baltimore County, Maryland, United States. The population was 19,199 at the 2000 census.- History :...

. Even though five eyewitnesses had placed him with the victim, he continued to maintain his innocence throughout his trial and subsequent incarceration. In 1992, while in jail, Bloodsworth read an account of how DNA fingerprinting had led to the conviction of Colin Pitchfork
Colin Pitchfork
Colin Pitchfork is a British criminal, the first convicted of murder based on DNA fingerprinting evidence, and the first to be caught as a result of mass DNA screening. Pitchfork raped and murdered two girls, the first in Narborough, Leicestershire, in November 1983, and the second in Enderby,...

 in the killings of Dawn Ashworth and Lynda Mann; hoping to prove his innocence, he pushed to have the evidence against him tested by the then-novel method. Initially, the available evidence in the case — traces of semen in the victim's underwear — was thought to have been destroyed; however, when eventually located (in a paper bag in the judge's chambers), testing proved that the semen did not match Bloodsworth's DNA profile. In 1993, Bloodsworth was released; by that time, he had spent almost nine years in prison, two of them on death row.

Though released from prison, Bloodsworth was not formally exonerated. In 2003, nearly a decade after Bloodsworth's conviction, prisoner DNA evidence added to state and federal databases identified the real killer, Kimberly Shay Ruffner. A month after the 1984 murder, Ruffner had been sentenced to 45 years for an unrelated burglary, attempted rape and assault with intent to murder, and had in fact been incarcerated in a cell one floor below Bloodsworth's own cell. In light of the new evidence, Ruffner was charged with the crime for which Bloodsworth had been wrongfully convicted, and in 2004 Ruffner pled guilty to the 1984 murder.

Today, Bloodsworth is a Program Officer for The Justice Project, and he has been an ardent supporter of the Innocence Protection Act
Innocence Protection Act
The Innocence Protection Act is the first federal death penalty reform to be enacted. The Act seeks to ensure the fair administration of the death penalty and minimize the risk of executing innocent people. The Innocence Protection Act of 2001, introduced in the Senate as S. 486 and the House of...

 (IPA) since its introduction in Congress in February 2000. The IPA established the Kirk Bloodsworth Post-Conviction DNA Testing Program, a program that will help states defray the costs of post-conviction DNA testing.

Bloodsworth is the subject of the book Bloodsworth: the True Story of the First Death Row Inmate Exonerated by DNA by Tim Junkin.

External links

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