Today's New York Times reports, "A Death Penalty Fight Comes Home." It' written by Scott Shane.
Kirk Noble Bloodsworth, a beefy, crew-cut man
whose blue T-shirt read “Witness to Innocence,” took the microphone in a church hall here and ran through his story of injustice and redemption one more time. Twenty years ago, he walked out of a Maryland prison, the first inmate in the nation to be sentenced to death and then exonerated by DNA.
About 60 activists against the death penalty listened with rapt attention, preparing to descend on state legislators to press their case. Maryland appears likely in the next few weeks to join the growing list of states that have abolished capital punishment. Some longtime death penalty opponents say no one in the country has done more to advance that cause than Mr. Bloodsworth. But ending executions in Maryland, the state that once was determined to kill him, would be a personal victory for him.
Even for proponents of capital punishment, Mr. Bloodsworth’s tale is deeply unsettling.
Even after his release, Mr. Bloodsworth could never quite escape the false charges that had threatened him with execution. He tried to return, he said, to “a normal life,” but he was haunted by what he had learned about the justice system.
“If it could happen to me, it could happen to anybody,” he said. He threw himself into work against capital punishment and for justice reform, first as a volunteer speaker and later as a professional advocate. Last month he began work as the advocacy director for Witness to Innocence, a Philadelphia-based coalition of exonerated death row inmates who push to end capital punishment.
The movement to end the death penalty has garnered more support from politicians and the public as it has shifted from moral condemnation of capital punishment to a more practical argument: that mistakes by witnesses and the police inevitably mean that innocent people will be executed. While DNA gets the limelight, of 142 prisoners sentenced to death and then exonerated in the last 40 years, just 18 were freed over DNA evidence, according to the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington.
The Times also has this excellent graphic on death sentences and state repeal.
His story is told in Bloodsworth: The True Story of One Man's Triumph over Injustice by Tim Junkin; a must-read.