[Deathpenalty]death penalty news-----N.J., NEV., ILL.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Thu Jul 7 15:13:34 CDT 2005
Man wrongly convicted of murder tells his story -- Kirk Bloodsworth,
others make case against death penalty
Kirk Bloodsworth was sentenced to death in March 1985 for the brutal rape
and murder of a 9-year-old girl found in the Maryland woods 1 year before.
But there was a problem. He didn't do it.
It's been 12 years since Bloodsworth was released from prison as a result
of DNA evidence prosecutors presenting the case claimed they did not have.
He continues to dedicate his life to advocate against the death penalty.
He visited St. James Church in Woodbridge June 28 - the anniversary of his
release - with the anti-death penalty organization New Jerseyans for
Alternatives to the Death Penalty (NJADP) to tell his story.
"On Aug. 9, 1984, I heard a knock on my door," Bloodsworth said, as he
thumped his fist on the church lectern several times. "I went to the door
in no shirt, no shoes, and silk running shorts. It was an August night not
unlike tonight - hot and humid - at quarter to 3 in the morning. I opened
the door and a voice said, 'You're under arrest for the 1st-degree murder
of Dawn Hamilton.'
"They pushed my head down as they put me into the police car, and it was
the last time I saw Cambridge, Md., for 8 years, 11 months and 19 days,"
Bloodsworth then told the audience of about 40 people in first few rows of
church pews exactly what Baltimore County authorities accused him of doing
to young Dawn Hamilton.
"It's very graphic," he said. "This 9-year-old girl who never hurt a soul,
her head was crushed by a rock. Her throat was stepped on so forcefully
that an imprint of the sole of the sneaker was left in her skin. She was
naked from the waist down. Her panties were discarded in the tree next to
her body. A stick was pushed up inside her. Thats what I was accused of
Authorities were looking for a man approximately 6 feet, 5 inches, with
curly blond hair, a bushy mustache, tan skin and skinny.
"I wasn't skinny," Bloodsworth said. "The only resemblance I had was I was
a white male and I had a mustache."
2 young boys identified Bloodsworth in a police lineup, he said.
Authorities ignored other suspects in the area, including a man found with
a pair of girls underwear, and a man fitting the suspect's profile who had
just had a physical altercation with a young girl, Bloodsworth said.
"I went to trial and was convicted on all counts," he said. "I received
the death penalty and the courtroom erupted in applause. The people
involved in the trial went to a bar and celebrated 'til 4 a.m.. For me, it
was the blackest time of my life."
During the almost nine years he was imprisoned for a crime he didn't
commit, Bloodsworth was hit in the head with a sock full of batteries,
stabbed in the calf and had his clavicle fractured with a padlock.
Bloodsworth said prisoners had to keep cotton balls in their ears at night
so cockroaches would not lay eggs in their heads.
"It was the most visual idea of what hell would be like," he said. "It
smelled of rat feces, filth and body odor. 2 weeks before I showed up, a
guard was disemboweled."
Books kept Bloodsworth sane.
"I read a lot while I was in prison," he said. "Everything from Stephen
King to gestalt psychology."
A second trial had reduced Bloodsworths prison to back-to-back life
sentences. It was while he was serving this term that he received a book
in the mail that would prove to be the key to his jail cell door.
"The Blooding" by Joseph Wampaugh featured a story about a serial killer
who was tracked using genetic fingerprinting.
"I thought, 'If they can use DNA to prove it is, then why can't they use
it to prove it isnt?'"
A swab taken from Dawn Hamilton's body containing semen was discovered to
still exist. Bloodsworth's DNA test results didn't match. He was free to
When Bloodsworth returned to Cambridge, Md., he had trouble getting a job
and was harassed by his neighbors.
DNA testing was fairly new. The public wasn't too sure if he could be
trusted, Bloodsworth said.
"I started getting anonymous phone calls saying, 'I'm going to kill you
the way you killed that little girl,'" Bloodsworth said.
And the prosecutor's statement didnt help.
"If we had the DNA evidence in 1984, Mr. Bloodsworth would not have been
prosecuted, but we are not prepared to say he is innocent," Ann Brobst,
the woman who prosecuted him said at the time of his release.
Bloodsworth received a phone call in September 2003 from Brobst. "The real
killer had slept underneath me in prison for 5 years," he said. "I gave
him library books and he never said a word."
Kimberly Shay Ruffner had been serving time for another rape. He had been
sleeping in the cell block one floor below Bloodsworth.
Ruffner pleaded guilty to the murder of Dawn Hamilton last May.
Bloodsworth received only $300,000 from the state of Maryland for the
almost nine years he spent in prison.
The experience prompted him to oppose the death penalty. He works for the
Justice Project, an organization that lobbies for anti-death penalty
Also telling his tale last week was Lorry Post, who lost his daughter,
Lisa Price, in 1988 when she was stabbed to death by her husband.
"My daughter was about to leave her husband but he said she was not going
to leave him," Post said. "He stabbed her in the back twice. I'm OK
talking about it, but every time I use the words 'stabbed in the back' I
feel like something is stabbing me in my back. I think about my little
girl having a knife stuck in her back."
Post, along with other residents throughout the state, formed New
Jerseyans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty after a Florida man, Pedro
Medina was sentenced to death. They believed he was innocent but he was
executed in the electric chair in 1997.
"His head was set on fire," Post said.
The organization began with 5 members in 1997. It now has 10,000, he said.
Most members are from churches, synagogues or meeting houses, but a
portion of the organizations members come from secular organizations, Post
Carmelot Dorcellus, a forensic science teacher at the Newark Museum and a
St. James parishioner, said he was excited to hear Bloodsworth speak at
the church because he teaches his students using Bloodsworth's story.
"I show my students your story," he told Bloodsworth. "I show them a
videotape. They couldn't believe that could happen in America."
Louise McDyer said she came to the forum discussion at St. James because
she saw it advertised in a Catholic newspaper.
"While the topic I believe is interesting, hearing the speaker who was
actually on death row and found to be innocent I find a fascinating
subject," she said before the meeting.
McDyer said she was already opposed to the death penalty, but hearing
Bloodsworth and Post speak, reinforced her conviction.
"It was quite worthwhile," she said. "It reinforced my feelings."
New Jersey currently has 10 inmates on death row, NJADP executive director
Celeste Fitzgerald said.
A death row inmate has not been killed by the state in 43 years. A
moratorium on New Jersey executions was imposed in 2004 after the NJADP
sued the state Department of Corrections for what they said was a faulty
execution procedure, Fitzgerald said.
The regulations were found to be "arbitrary and unreasonable" by an
appellate court, but that the moratorium could soon be lifted, Fitzgerald
(source: Woodbridge Sentinel)
New Death Penalty Trial Set For Man In Mesquite Knife Attack
It'll be up to a 2nd jury to decide whether a 21-year-old Utah man should
be put to death in a brutal knife attack that killed a little girl and
left her half-sister paralyzed.
Clark County District Judge Donald Mosley set an April 10th date for a new
penalty trial for Beau Maestas. A 1st jury deadlocked 10-to-2 for guilt
last month. Maestas' lawyer says a 2nd penalty trial will subject Maestas
to double-jeopardy. He says he'll appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court.
Maestas pleaded guilty May 27th in the slaying of 3-year-old Kristyanna
Cowan and the stabbing her half-sister10-year-old Brittney Bergeron.
Authorities say Maestas and his younger sister, Monique attacked the girls
in retaliation for a drug deal rip-off involving the girls' mother and her
boyfriend. Monique Maestas is now 19. She's pleaded not guilty and faces
life in prison if convicted. Mosley set her trial for April 17th.
(source: Associated Press)
Judge imposes death sentence recommended by jurors
A Cook County judge has imposed the death penalty on 38-year-old Joseph
Bannister of Chicago for the September 2000 murder of Henrietta Banks.
In May, a jury recommended the death penalty, but it had to be officially
approved by a judge.
Yesterday, Judge Fred Suria did just that. Suria also gave Bannister a
concurrent 45-year sentence for the attempted murder of Banks' sister,
Sharon Banks, who was the mother of one of Bannister's children.
Only 7 other people have been sentenced to death since former Governor
George Ryan cleared death row in 2003.
(source: Associated Press)
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