Wrongfully sentenced to die:
RELEASED: Oct. 27, 2005
DANVILLE, KYActivist Kirk Bloodsworth, who was sentenced to death and served nine years in prison for crimes he didn't commit, will speak at a Centre College convocation about the need for criminal justice reform, along with Bill Redick '65, a Tennessee attorney who represents capital defendants and is the director of the Tennessee Justice Project. The event, free and open to all, will take place Wednesday, Nov. 2, at 7 p.m. in Young Hall 101.
In 1993, Bloodsworth was exonerated of murder charges after DNA evidence revealed his innocence. His case was the first capital conviction to be overturned as a result of DNA testing in the United States. A former Marine, he was convicted of sexual assault, rape and first-degree premeditated murder and sentenced to death in 1984. The ruling was appealed on the grounds that evidence was withheld at trial, and he received a new trial. He was found guilty again and sentenced to two consecutive life terms.
After years of fighting for a DNA test, evidence from the crime scene was then sent to a lab for DNA testing. In 1993, final reports from state and federal labs concluded that Bloodsworth's DNA did not match any of the evidence received for testing. By the time of his release, Bloodsworth had spent nearly nine years in prison, including two on death row. Almost a decade later, on Sept. 5, 2003, the Maryland State's Attorney announced that a DNA match had been made in the nearly 20-year-old case. That person pled guilty on May 20, 2004, to the murder for which Bloodsworth had been wrongfully convicted.
"A cornerstone of our American democracy is the egalitarian principle, which is manifest in the corollary that all American citizens are constitutionally required to have the benefit of equal justice under the law," says Redick. "The mandate of equal justice under the law, however, is not a reality. Consequently, as a matter of course, defendants in this country are sentenced to death after trials that are unfair and unreliable. These unreliable trials result in the imposition of death sentences for arbitrary and discriminatory reasons against poor and relatively powerless defendants, who are not the most serious offenders and have not committed the most serious crimes."
Since 1998, Redick has worked with the Tennessee Justice Project, an organization dedicated to the reform of the administration of the death penalty in Tennessee. He has practiced law in Tennessee since 1978 and has provided death penalty representation almost exclusively since 1988. He served as assistant public defender, as Director of the Capital Case Resource Center of Tennessee, and as chairman of the Death Penalty Committee of the Tennessee Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (TACDL). In 1995, he won TACDL's annual Lionel R. Barrett Jr. award for outstanding work in the death penalty arena, and in 2003, he received the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty Legal Service Award.
Bloodsworth has spoken about the capital punishment system on numerous television shows, including Oprah and Larry King Live, and his story has been featured in national publications, including the New York Times Magazine. His story is chronicled in the book Bloodsworth: The True Story of the First Death Row Inmate Exonerated by DNA, written by Tim Junkin.
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