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Bloodsworth: The True Story of the First Death Row Inmate Exonerated by DNA (Shannon Ravenel Books) Hardcover – October 9, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Attorney and novelist Junkin (The Waterman) makes his nonfiction debut with the little-known story of Kirk Noble Bloodsworth, who in 1984 was falsely accused of the brutal sex murder of a nine-year-old girl in Maryland. The local authorities narrowed in quickly on Bloodsworth based on questionable eyewitness identifications, while neglecting a slew of clearly worthwhile leads. Bloodsworth was convicted and sentenced to death, before an appellate court found that the state had failed to disclose exculpatory evidence to the defense concerning the suspicious figure who had helped direct police to the child's corpse. Yet the retrial again ended with a guilty verdict, although the judge's reservations about the circumstantial evidence led him to impose two life sentences. As Junkin tells it, Bloodsworth's inner strength and determination enabled him to survive in prison and to learn of advances in DNA fingerprinting that led to his 1993 exoneration and Maryland's belated identification of the killer. While this book isn't as gripping as Randall Dale Adams's account of his escape from death row or the writings of lawyer Barry Scheck, Bloodsworth, who became an advocate for abolishing the death penalty, deserves to be better known, and the battery of mistakes that led to his lethal jeopardy should disturb any fair-minded reader on either side of the capital punishment debate.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

DNA has so seeped itself into the popular consciousness that it's hard to remember that, in the early 1990s, it was only beginning to emerge as a forensic tool. This hard-hitting and moving examination of the first death row inmate whose conviction was overturned through the use of DNA evidence combines forensic science, knowledge of police procedure (and police malpractice), trial coverage, and chilling representations of prison. The inmate saved by DNA (in 1992) has a name even Dickens couldn't improve upon: Kirk Bloodsworth. A Chesapeake Bay crabber, Bloodsworth was convicted of the mutilation slaying of a nine-year-old girl in 1984. Junkin, an attorney, is at home tracing the police and legal snafus that imprisoned an innocent man. He presents two parallel stories: that of Bloodsworth's conviction and torturous prison experiences and that of the D.C. lawyer who took on his case. Outrage-provoking. Connie Fletcher
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • Series: Shannon Ravenel Books
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: A Shannon Ravenel Book (October 9, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565124197
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565124196
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 1.1 x 8.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,629,726 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Alan Mills VINE VOICE on February 23, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This is not a feel good story of how the justice system ultimately worked to save an innocent man.

This is a terrifying story of how an innocent man was found guilty of a horrendous crime, not once, but twice, with full appellate review and decent lawyering at every level. A dozen people swore over and over that they saw him near the crime scene. Several testified that he made incriminating statements. All were dead wrong. He was no where near the crime scene. He never admitted to anything. Someone else killed that little girl--and remained free for a decade (and in fact raped others while Bloodsworth sat in prison).

But for the fact that DNA analysis was perfected, Kurt Bloodsworth would still be in prison, serving a life sentence, never to see freedom again, all for a crime he had absolutely no connection with.

But for the fact that an attorney filed a routine motion to preserve evidence, evidence which everyone agreed was useless, it would have been destroyed.

But for a stubborn defense attorney who decided to retest evidence which everyone had claimed contained no useful fluids--there would have been nothing for to test for DNA.

Sure Kurt Bloodsworth is special. All of these facts happened at the same time, at the right time, to enable him to prove he was innocent. But how many others are sitting in prison proclaiming their innocence do not have this "luck"--it is hard to use the word "luck" in connection with someone who spent over a decade in prison for a crime he didn't commit, and then another decade trying to prove he was innocent (not just "not guilty.").

Anyone who reads this book will come away with an entirely different view of the criminal justice system, the reliability of eyewitness testimony, and the infallibility of the police.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Steve H. in Austin on September 13, 2004
Format: Hardcover
In spite of all he has been through, Kirk Bloodsworth is a lucky man. Wrongly convicted of a brutal crime, Bloodsworth spent nine years in prison. He is a member of a growing club of men and women, 115 at the time of this book's publication, who were sentenced to death before eventually being exonerated and cleared. The growing rolls of innocent people, exonerated and freed, is now causing reassement of how our criminal justice system works.

During an attack in the prison, his name - Kirk Noble Bloodsworth - played a role in saving him. Today, his name is known because he was the first person to spend time on death row whose exoneration came about because of DNA evidence.

This book is a roller coaster ride, and the drama doesn't let up until the very last page. In spite of his exoneration, Bloodsworth's prosecutor continued to state her belief that he was guilty. Ten years after his exoneration and release, another sample of evidence was finally tested and matched to the real murderer. Only then did Kirk Bloodsworth receive an apology from the prosecutor.

Bloodsworth now speaks on behalf of The Justice Project, and advocates passage of federal legislation, the Innocence Protection Act. Author Tim Junkin and Bloodsworth are currently involved in a wide-ranging book tour and you may get the opportunity to hear Kirk Bloodsworth in person.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Rob Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on November 8, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Over the past decade we have had to face the sad conclusion that our criminal justice system has something badly wrong with it. Convictions based on eyewitness identifications and physical evidence persuasive enough to convince a jury have later been shown by DNA testing to be completely erroneous. DNA testing is taken for granted now although there is still reluctance on the part of some prosecutors to allow tests to be made on old specimens, and many of the specimens have been discarded down the years. The story of one of the first of these cases is told in _Bloodsworth: The True Story of the First Death Row Inmate Exonerated by DNA_ (Algonquin Books) by Tim Junkin. It is a hellish story of justice gone wrong, and there is plenty of blame to go around; but it is also the story of Kirk Bloodsworth's undying confidence that his conviction would be set right, and the idealistic lawyers who listened to him and eventually made it so.

In 1984, nine-year-old Dawn Hamilton was raped, sodomized, and killed in a wooded area near Baltimore. A composite sketch was produced on the evidence of seven- and ten-year-old boys, and the sketch eventually was connected, despite dissimiliarities, to Kirk Bloodsworth, an ex-Marine. Much of the book shows how the righteous confidence of detectives and prosecutors lead them to rationalize away any parts of the evidence and identifications that did not fit. Bloodsworth was eventually put on a disgusting death row, and as an accused and then convicted child molester and killer, he was detested by the thugs in prison who assaulted him in different, disgusting ways. He did not give up; he wrote letters every day to anyone he could think of who might help, and eventually found a lawyer who had power to get the evidence reexamined.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Brady Buchanan on December 1, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This book has enough emotion in it to supply a host of other books. This true crime story will show you what the human being is capable of (both bad and good) in the name of Kirk Bloodsworth. He was convicted twice for the same crime and in the end it was proved without any doubt that he was innocent. He was on death row for many years and you learn all about a convict's life in prison. There were only two people responsible for him being released and that was himself with incredible persistance over years and an attorney later on who finally believed him. Hundreds of death row inmates have been released due to DNA proof, but Kirk was the first. A gripping story that makes you turn the pages.
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