Kirk Bloodsworth (Baltimore, Maryland)

Factual background: On July 25, 1984, a 9-year-old girl was found dead in a wooded area. She had been beaten with a rock, sexually assaulted, and strangled. Kirk Bloodsworth was convicted on March 8, 1985, of sexual assault, rape, and first-degree premeditated murder. A Baltimore County judge sentenced Bloodsworth to death.

Prosecutor's evidence at trial: The prosecution based its case on several points:

An anonymous caller tipped police that Bloodsworth had been seen with the girl earlier in the day.

A witness identified Bloodsworth from a police sketch compiled by five witnesses.

The five witnesses testified that they had seen Bloodsworth with the little girl.

Bloodsworth had told acquaintances he had done something "terrible" that day that would affect his marriage.

In his first police interrogation, Bloodsworth mentioned a "bloody rock," even though no weapons were known of at the time.

Testimony was given that a shoe impression found near the victim's body was made by a shoe that matched Bloodsworth's size.

Postconviction challenges: In 1986 Bloodsworth's attorney filed an appeal contending the following: Bloodsworth mentioned the bloody rock because the police had one on the table next to him while they interrogated him; the terrible thing mentioned to friends was that he had failed to buy his wife a taco salad as he had promised; and police withheld information from defense attorneys relating to the possibility of another suspect.

The Maryland Court of Appeals overturned Bloodsworth's conviction in July 1986 because of the withheld information. He was retried, and a jury convicted him a second time. This time Bloodsworth was sentenced to two consecutive life terms.

After an appeal of the second conviction was denied, Bloodsworth's lawyer moved to have the evidence released for more sophisticated testing than was available at the time of trial. The prosecution agreed, and in April 1992 the victim's panties and shorts, a stick found near the murder scene, reference blood samples from Bloodsworth and the victim, and an autopsy slide were sent to Forensic Science Associates (FSA) for Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) testing.

DNA results: The FSA report, issued on May 17, 1993, stated that semen on the autopsy slide was insufficient for testing. It also stated that a small semen stain had been found on the panties.

The report indicated that the majority of DNA associated with the epithelial fraction had the same genotype as the semen due to the low level of epithelial cells present in the stain. It was an expected result, according to the report. Finally, the report concluded that Bloodsworth's DNA did not match any of the evidence received for testing. FSA did, however, request a fresh sample of Bloodsworth's blood for retesting in accord with questions about proper labeling on the original sample.

On June 3, 1993, FSA issued a second report that stated its findings regarding Bloodsworth's DNA were replicated and that he could not be responsible for the stain on the victim's underwear.

Conclusion: On June 25, 1993, the FBI conducted its own test of the evidence and discovered the same results as FSA. In Maryland, new evidence can be presented no later than one year after the final appeal. Prosecutors joined a petition with Bloodsworth's attorneys to grant Bloodsworth a pardon. A Baltimore County circuit judge ordered Bloodsworth released from prison on June 28, 1993. Maryland's governor pardoned Bloodsworth in December 1993. Bloodsworth served almost nine years of the second sentence, including two years on death row.

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