Review of book:  Bloodsworth—the True Story of the First Death Row Inmate Exonerated by DNA Evidence, by Tim Junkin

Bloodsworth is the nonfiction account of how Kirk Bloodworth was wrongfully accused and spent 9 years in prison for the alleged heinous rape and murder of a child.    The book includes a short history of how DNA came about (“clearing the innocent as well as identifying the guilty”), the history of the Maryland Penitentiary, and a short Baltimore history beginning in 1661.  I love a book that gives the historical backstory to explain why things happened and what was going on in the country at the same time.

“In her news conference, Sandra A. O’Connor declined to say that Bloodsworth was innocent and offered no apologies.   ‘There are no other suspects at this time’, she said.  ‘Based on the evidence, our office did the right thing in prosecuting him,’ she said.   ‘I believe he is not guilty,” O’Conor added.  ‘I am not prepared to say he’s innocent.’  This public statement of hers caused some people to think he was still guilty despite the proof of his innocence.

The author says “There is a strain of hubris that affects certain people in power, people with authority.  It can be slow to develop, like a dormant infection.  If not guarded against, it can breed an unhealthy arrogance, a cocksureness that their judgments are beyond fallacy.  Such self-righteousness allows them to close their minds to new possibilities.  It can cause right-thinking people to do terrible things.  The devil has a long tail.”   In addition, it can cause these professionals to not consider any other options like the four other local men who had criminal records and creepy ways that caught their co-workers’ attentions, but not the prosecution investigators’ attentions.

Kirk’s personal story of triumph is intermingled with the above in an interesting and far from boring way.  There was no evidence to even bring him in as a suspect.   But, think of what he and other innocent men and women have gone through.   Some say, well, the cover tells you that he was proven innocent, why should I read his story?   Who knows, maybe you will need the information that he learned from his experience being locked up in the Maryland Penitentiary, being trapped with the guilty, using every bit of money your elderly parents have in trying to prove your innocence, etc.   This could have been your story.

And, what was his crime?   This former waterman, Marine, and discus-throwing champion allowed his life to spiral out of control in pursuit of the wife whom he loved.  So much so that he wasn’t prepared physically or emotionally to bring his life back on track.   He and his wife were living with a group of like-minded party animals who only lived to party until his wife grew bored with him and ran away to find some other like-minded fellow.  Bloodsworth was high and miserable about his wife when he was arrested.   What a time to be arrested when you are not thinking clearly at all and having to come down off that high in prison.

This book was selected by the Maryland Humanities One Maryland One Book campaign.   Copyright 2004 by Tim Junkin and Kirk Bloodsworth, Published by Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill

Submitted by Rosa L. Griffin

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