First American Death Row inmate exonerated by DNA evidence to speak and participate in audience Q&A
October 11, 2016 (Wye Mills, MD) – Kirk Bloodsworth, the first American sentenced to death row and later exonerated by DNA evidence, will return to the Eastern Shore for a screening of the movie “Bloodsworth: An Innocent Man.” The Thursday, Oct. 27 event, jointly sponsored by Chesapeake College’s Criminal Justice and Honors programs, begins at 6:30 p.m. at the College’s Todd Performing Arts Center and is free and open to the public.
The documentary memoir recounts Bloodsworth’s incredible journey through the criminal justice system. Following the 1:15-hour film, Bloodsworth will provide remarks and participate in a question and answer session with the audience.
A Dorchester County native, honorably discharged marine and former waterman, Bloodsworth was wrongfully convicted at age 22 of the 1984 rape and murder of nine-year-old Dawn Hamilton in Rosedale, Baltimore County.
Although there was no physical evidence linking him to the crime scene, Bloodsworth was found guilty in Baltimore County court and sentenced to death. The Maryland Court of Appeals overturned his conviction in 1986 after ruling that prosecutors illegally withheld evidence from the defense. He was retried, convicted a second time and sentenced to two life terms. The decision and sentence were affirmed in a 1988 appeal.
In 1992, re-testing of biological material preserved from the crime scene and then-emerging DNA technology incontrovertibly established Bloodsworth’s innocence. He was released in 1993 and received a full pardon from Maryland Governor William Donald Schaefer later that year. In 2003, additional DNA testing linked the crime to Mark Ruffner, a fellow inmate of Bloodsworth’s at the Maryland Penitentiary.
Now a skilled jewelry craftsman in Philadelphia, Bloodsworth continues his fight across the country as an inspirational speaker and national advocate for repealing the death penalty.
Amber McGinnis, director of Chesapeake’s Honors Program, said the college plans to integrate the evening’s events into lesson planning across multiple departments.
“This is not just a movie but a chance for our students to ask questions and participate in experiential learning opportunities that are at the core of our curriculum,” she said. “Psychology students will examine the effects of being on death row, biology students will study DNA and communications students will observe a live speaking event.”
Bridget Lowrie, Assistant Professor and Director of Criminal Justice and Paralegal Studies, said her department has also planned related lessons in eyewitness identification and the legal implications of wrongful convictions.
Released in 2015, “Bloodsworth: An Innocent Man,” was directed, written and produced by Idaho filmmaker Gregory Bayne.