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Former Death Row Inmate: "God Bless DNA"

PHOTO: Kirk Bloodsworth is the first person exonerated from death row in the U.S. He believes while it is important to do more to protect biological evidence in cases, repealing the death penalty is the best way to ensure innocent people donít end up on death row. Photo credit: Shekinah Lavalle.
PHOTO: Kirk Bloodsworth is the first person exonerated from death row in the U.S. He believes while it is important to do more to protect biological evidence in cases, repealing the death penalty is the best way to ensure innocent people donít end up on death row. Photo credit: Shekinah Lavalle.
November 24, 2014

RICHMOND, Ky. - An in-depth study of Kentucky's death penalty by the American Bar Association found a mountain of problems including a number of cases in which biological evidence sought for re-testing has "been lost or unavailable."

Kirk Bloodsworth says that's unacceptable. Bloodsworth was the first person in the U.S to be exonerated from death row by DNA testing. That was 21 years ago in Maryland.

"DNA has shown we've had a problem," says Bloodsworth. "It's not going to fix every innocent case we have. We have to have other means."

As Bloodsworth puts it, "God bless DNA." According to the Death Penalty Information Center, 20 people sentenced to death have been freed through biological testing. In total, there have been 148 wrongfully convicted death row inmates exonerated in the U.S.

State Senator Robin Webb says she will file a bill in the 2015 Kentucky General Assembly to increase protections for preserving biological evidence. Bloodsworth, who recently toured Kentucky to share his story, says improving safeguards would help but he believes the best solution is to make life without parole the maximum sentence.

"Absolutely, it's too many people who've been found innocent on death row in the United States, and we need to stop it right now," he says.

Bloodsworth was convicted of the rape and murder of a nine-year-old girl in 1985. After serving almost nine years in a Maryland prison, two years on death row, DNA fingerprinting confirmed his innocence. The real killer plead guilty 10 years after Bloodsworth was freed.

"The most chilling thing about it he slept in the same prison with me, in the tier below me for five years," says Bloodsworth. "And never said a word."

Bloodsworth says he received $300,000 from the state of Maryland for his wrongful conviction. He says that amounts to $3.70 for every hour he spent behind bars. A documentary about the case, Bloodsworth, An Innocent Man, is scheduled for release this spring.

Greg Stotelmyer , Public News Service - KY