In episode 14 of Bow to Fate we discuss the wrongful conviction of Kirk Bloodsworth. Bloodsworth was accused in 1984 of brutally raping and murdering a 9 year old girl. He is the first person in the United States to have been on death row and exonerated with DNA. Kirk Bloodsworth later became an advocate for victims of rape and helped to abolish the death penalty in Massachusetts. If you enjoy this episode please visit our website bowtofate.com to stay up to date with current events and episodes.
Hello and thanks for listening to Bow to Fate- a podcast focusing on true crime with an emphasis on the flaws in our justice system. Thank you for joining me today for our final episode of season one of Bow to Fate, we will pick up next year with season two so stay tuned. But for this episode we are going to discuss the wrongful conviction of Kirk Bloodsworth and how DNA became a prominent tool for those in prison looking to clear their name.
The morning of July 25th, 1984 ten year old Christian Shipley and seven year old Jackie Poling were fishing at a pond near the Fontana Village Apartments in Baltimore County, Maryland. A man stopped to talk to them and Jackie proudly showed the man a turtle he had caught in the pond. Shortly after that Dawn Hamilton showed up and asked the boys to help her find her cousin, Lisa. Christian and Jackie did not want to stop fishing so they brushed Dawn off, but the man offered his assistance. The boys told police they last time they saw Dawn Hamilton, she was walking into the woods with the man searching for her cousin.
Elinor Hemlick was watching Dawn along with several other children that day. When the kids returned to the apartment that afternoon, they told Elinor that Dawn had gone into the woods and not come back. Elinor went to the edge of the woods and called out for Dawn when she received no response, she went in looking for her. She came upon the two boys fishing and they told her that Dawn had gone off with a man. With alarm bells blasting she called Thomas Hamilton, Dawn’s father, and then the police. Elinor drove down to the local market where the kids would go to buy candy, the store clerk had not seen her so she took off back to the apartment to meet the police. On her way she saw a man on the roadside, Richard Gray, a newspaper delivery man with shaggy hair wearing camo pants. She gave him a description of Dawn and he told that her had not seen her but would keep an eye out.
Baltimore police descended on the area and spread out to search for Dawn, they interviewed Christian Shipley and Jackie Poling. They told police the same story they told Elinor. Dawn had gone off into the woods with a tall, thin white man with blond curly hair. By this time, Thomas Hamilton had arrived back at the apartment, after he received the phone call from Elinor he left work and rushed back home. Frustrated by just standing around, Thomas went off to search for his daughter himself. In the woods he came upon, Richard Gray, the newspaper delivery man. He told Thomas that he was helping to search for Dawn and he had found something. He directed Thomas to a tree set back into the woods. Thomas Hamilton’s heart sank when he looked up into the tree and saw the blue shorts, Dawn was wearing that morning and a pair of her underwear. He climbed the tree, grabbed the items and ran back to the police.
When Thomas Hamilton reached the police he was sheet white, he broke down as he told them where and how he had found his daughter’s clothing. He was able to direct them back to the area where Richard Gray was waiting. They descended down the path another 200 feet and discovered the partially nude body of Dawn Hamilton, in the wooded area of Rosedale, Maryland, she was only 9 years old. Dawn was found lying on her stomach with an eight inch stick protruding from her vagina. Near her head a large piece of concrete was found with a possible blood stain on it. A gum wrapper was found next to her body. Dawn’s tiny skull was fractured and depressed and her scalp had been torn in two places. Her neck showed signs of strangulation, in a pattern that resembled a shoe or a boot. Dawn’s little girl’s purse was still slung across her shoulder. The medical examiner, Dr. Dennis Smyth, declared her death as a homicide as a result of blunt force trauma to the head and strangulation.
At the scene police took shoe impressions, dirt and blood samples, and bagged the gum wrapper along with a navy blue belt loop, a red fiber, and a strand of human hair found near the body. They dusted Dawn’s body for prints but came up empty, they also dusted Christian Shipley’s tacklebox for prints but found none. Detectives warned those at the scene not to speak at all about the concrete rock found at the scene. Believing it to be the murder weapon, detectives wanted to keep this piece of evidence out of the press. Knowing that Christian Shipley and Jackie Poling were likely their best chance at catching the suspect, detectives asked to interview them that night, while the memory of the man was still fresh in their minds.
Assigned to lead the case were Robert Capel and William Ramsey, both were seasoned homicide detectives. The brutality of Dawn’s murder was so intense that the Baltimore Country Police Department wanted this crime solved quickly to assure their community that they would be safe.
Robert Capel intended to have 10 year old Christian Shipley create a composite first. Capel had been soured by using artist renditions in the past, so he chose to use a sort of flip book. Basically each part of the face were on films, Capel would provide Christian with various parts of the face and allow him to choose the one that best matched the man he saw walk off with Dawn Hamilton.
Christian Shipley stated that the man he saw was white, he was six feet five inches tall and had a slim build. Christian described a tan man with dirty blond very shaggy hair and a mustache. He told Detective Capel the man was wearing an Ocean Pacific t-shirt with three stripes, orange, red, and purple. He had on tan shorts and tall socks and tennis shoes. After some experimentation with the height of other officers Detective Capel became convinced that the man Christopher Shipley saw was actually closer to six feet tall, but he was impressed by Shipley’s overall recollection.
When Detective Capel brought out the flip book and began showing Christian pictures of facial features he was a bit rushed for time, he still needed to interview seven year old Jackie Poling and he was trying to get the composite sketch done in time to make the nightly news broadcast. He sensed that Christian was nervous about creating the image of the man so he assured him that the picture they were creating would not be used to identify anyone, but instead only used to eliminate suspects.
Christian went through the flip book, he seemed frustrated with the choices, the hair wasn’t quite right, the mustache was bushier than the image and the eyes were not right. Detective Capel what they could do to rectify it, but Christian wasn’t sure. After some time the ten year old finally agreed that it was close enough to the man that he saw.
Capel still needed to interview seven year old Jackie Poling and the deadline to make the evening news was running out. Not accustomed to working with kids Detective Capel was short on patience.
Jackie’s description was close to Shipley’s. He remembered a white male about six feet tall, skinny, with light brown curly hair, wearing tan shorts and a tan t-shirt. When Detective Capel attempted to use the flip book to obtain an independent sketch of the man he saw. Seven year old Jackie was so unsure and Capel’s patience was wearing thinner and thinner by the minute. Eventually he gave up and just showed Jackie Shipley the composite that Christian Shipley had created. Jackie said that looked similar to the man he saw and Detective Capel just went with it.
Showing one witness the composite created by another goes against all sense. Two independent composites should have been created and then compared against each other, to assure the voracity of your witnesses. We’ve talked about eyewitness testimony before, but there was more to this. Eye witnesses want to be helpful, in this case their primary witnesses are minors so they are even more susceptible to influence from the detectives.
Later that evening an adult eye witness was interviewed by Detective Capel and Ramsey. Fay McCullough said that she had seen a strange man lurking by the woods that morning as she drove out of her apartment complex on her way to work. She said that she had gotten a solid look at the man. She remembered him being five foot seven ish, slim build, with curly bond hair. She described him wearing khaki shorts, a sleeveless pullover, and tennis shoes. Detective Capel worked with her for over two hours that night, moving through the screens in his flip book. Fay was just not happy with the results, she insisted the eyes were not right. Finally Capel became so frustrated that he stood up, threw the composite in the trash and told her that he was going with the composite Christian Shipley made, he did not consider her a reliable witness. Fay was frustrated with detectives that night and after she left she took the composite drawing out of the trash and kept it.
The Baltimore County Police Department arranged to have the composite sketch created by Christopher Shipley ran on the morning news the next day, they had missed the cut-off for the evening news.
As expected the rape and murder of a 9 year old girl was big news in Baltimore County and the composite sketch led to a plethora of leads for detectives to follow up on. Several people came forward with suspects that had to be looked into. Several people pointed toward people they had seen that matched the composite sketch, others just provided tips of suspicious men. The police used the composite sketch created by a 10 year old boy to shuffle through leads and eliminate avenues that possibly should have been investigated.
Many of the neighbors from Fontana Village, the apartment complex directly next to the wooded area where Dawn Hamilton was found, came forward. Some identified a man named Bob that was six foot two inches tall with curly blond hair. They called him Cowboy Bob because he always was seen handing out candy and money to kids wearing a cowboy hat.
Debbie McNamara said that she saw a man resembling the composite sitting on an electrical box outside her apartment, the police dusted the box for prints, but did not find any.
Nancy Hall and Donna Ferguson told police that they also saw a man sitting on the electrical box. They told police they saw a white man with a thin build wearing black pants and a maroon pullover shirt, he had brown curly hair. A few days later Nancy Hall walked up to a police officer and identified a friend of hers, Mickey Manzari. She told police that he had been hanging around the complex and had been recently released from prison. The police arrested him, but later released him when he had a solid alibi for the time of the crime.
A man contacted the police and advised them that the picture of the suspect in Dawn Hamilton’s murder resembled the composite sketches made of a man that police were searching for near Fells Point, Baltimore for a series of rapes. Unbelievably police never pursued this lead, really how could they, the atrocious murder of a young child was generating more tips and leads than the officers could run down.
Police did look into a man by the name of W.F. Johnson. Mr. Johnson was known by the nickname Candy Man. He would give candy to little kids at Church and have them sit on his lap. When detectives interviewed him they found him creepy and he told them that he had know Dawn from church. Johnson did not match the composite sketch, but he also had no alibi for the crime. He was placed on the back burner for the time being.
Along with the tips rolling in, detectives also needed to eliminate the usual suspects. On the day of the murder Richard Gray was the man who initially alerted Dawn’s father to her shorts and underwear in a tree in the woods, this discovery eventually led Detective Marc Bacon to find Dawn’s body. Detective Bacon interviewed Richard Gray that night after the body was discovered. He noted in his report a small red spot on Gray’s shirt that he thought might be blood. Richard Gray became sick and vomited next to his car while Bacon questioned him. He had a balled up pair of children’s panties on the dash of his car. Gray told detective Bacon that he had found them in the woods two days earlier. Gray eventually consented to a search of his car and a formal interview at the police station.
Everything about Richard Gray bothered Detective Marc Bacon. Bacon found the newspapers he was supposed to deliver that day still in his car, his hands were miraculously clean, despite the fact that he claimed to be handling newspapers all morning. He threw up when he was being questioned, and he had a potential blood spot on his shirt. During the interview he referred several times to the purse Dawn had with her and he motioned several times that it was strapped across her chest. When Detective Bacon asked Gray how he knew about the purse, he told him that a woman had described it to him while she was looking for Dawn.
Richard Gray claimed that he was delivering papers that morning listening to the scanner, when he heard the missing child report come through. He decided that since he knew the area well he was going to ride over there an offer his assistance to police. While doing this he claimed that he just happened on Dawn’s shorts and underwear hanging in a tree. He said at that point he went back to his car and a woman pulled up asking if he had seen Dawn. He told Detective Bacon that he advised the woman to go to the command center and send a police officer to him. After some time passed and no officer arrived he started to walk to the command center himself and that is when he ran into Thomas Hamilton and showed him the clothes in the tree.
Detective Bacon was suspicious, he ran a background check on Gray and found that he had a conviction for indecent exposure to a minor, he was driving a rented car, and that spot on his shirt was worrisome. Detective Bacon took his concerns to the homicide detectives. They checked with their supervisors and found out that Richard Gray was somewhat of a police groupie. He was at the police station when the call came through dispatch that morning according to police. This was not the story that Richard Gray had told, but they were certain that he did not have any involvement, plus he did not match the composite sketch.
This worried Detective Bacon, he had been working with juveniles for several years and he felt that the homicide detectives were putting too much weight on the identifications of two young boys, and there was nothing to point to the fact that the man that Dawn walked away with was the same man that murdered her. Detective Bacon pushed again to at a minimum have homicide detectives seize Richard Gray’s shirt and test that precarious spot, but he was denied and told to drop the matter.
Two weeks later, detectives decided that they needed to cover their bases. Richard Gray was sat down for a polygraph test. He failed that test, but by this time they had already narrowed their suspect list down to one name.
Kirk Bloodsworth was 22 years old in 1984. He had been a discus champion in the US Military before he was honorably discharged. He came from a long line of waterman and held onto a dream of owning his own fishing boat and making a living off the water just as his father had. After leaving the military he longed for the freedom that you can only have after leaving the military, he let his hair grow long and enjoyed joints and beer as much as possible.
In February of 1984 he met Wanda Gardenier, while his parents were less than impressed, he fell head over heels in love with her. In April of 1984 he married her without the consent or presence of his parents. She was a bit of a wild child, but Kirk couldn’t help it he was young and in love. While he longed for the peaceful small town life of Cambridge, Massachusett and its access to the water that he loved so much. Wanda was not a small town girl, she liked to party and drink and she wanted to be in the big city. Wanda was 10 years Kirk’s senior and she had lived her life up to this point just as she wanted, she hated Cambridge and kept running into trouble with the law due to her drinking. In June of 1984 he gave her all the money he had and sent her to her mom’s home in Baltimore.
In July when he called Wanda’s mom heartbroken and missing his wife, he found out that she had moved out. She was living in a commune style home with a bunch of other people. He called her and told her he wanted to be with her again and he was willing to move to Baltimore to find a job there so they could be together. She agreed. On the weekend of July 4th, 1984 he started hitchhiking to Baltimore. He would have driven but before she left Wanda had totaled his car while drunk driving. She was a real catch.
When Kirk arrived in the town of Essex, Maryland. He found his wife living in a two bedroom home with her half sister, two brothers and another woman who was a club dancer. The place was a non-stop party. Kirk settled in and found a job working for Donna Hollywood loading furniture at her store a mile from the home. He walked to and from work. After work he would come home to the party, wake up, walk to work, and come home and do it all over again. Only two people in the home worked and they were constantly struggling to pay the bills. Kirk thought that Wanda would be happy here, but she was the same woman that he had put on a bus in Cambridge. He loved her, but she was out of control.
When Wanda and Kirk watched television the day after the murder, the composit sketch was all over the news. Wanda joked that it looked a lot like him. They laughed, because it couldn’t have been because he was home with Wanda, her half-sister, her two brothers, a few friends, and the club dancer all day. On July 25th, 1984 Kirk Bloodsworth stood six feet tall, he was muscular and weighed 212 lbs, he had long curly fiery red hair, and had grown a mustache and mutton chop sideburns. The black and white composite sketch did resemble Kirk, but then again it resembled a lot of people.
Life in Essex seemed to get worse and worse for Kirk. Wanda stayed out all night drinking and hanging out with her friends, they fought all the time and they were living out of cardboard boxes sleeping on a pullout couch in a living room that was in a constant state of party time. One night in early August he and Wanda got into a screaming match, she screamed at his to make more money and give her space. He had had enough, to calm her down and stop the argument he told her he would bring her a taco salad, her favorite dinner, after work the next day.
The next morning Wanda would not drop the argument, when he left for work that morning, he had made up his mind to go back to Cambridge. He told his boss Dolly Hollywood that he was sick and just wanted his paycheck and to go home. He cashed the check and started hitchhiking home.
The guilt of leaving his wife was bearing down on him, on the way back to Cambridge he called Wanda’s mother and told her he had done something terrible. He was supposed to bring Wanda a taco salad and instead he had just left her. Wanda’s mother, Birdie was not impressed. She warned Kirk that if she left Wanda, Wanda would take him for everything he had, Kirk hung up on her, he didn’t have anything anyway.
Birdie, Wanda’s mom, called Wanda and urged her to file a missing person’s report on Kirk and get her husband back. Wanda filed the report, listing him as disappeared, whereabouts unknown, despite the fact that she knew exactly where he was headed.
Unbeknownst to Kirk, on July 28th, police had received tip number 286 in the Dawn Hamilton murder. A neighbor had called the police and told them Kirk looked a lot like the composite sketch and thought that he should be looked at. The police took the information and promised that a detective would follow up. When detectives followed up on the tip, they found that Kirk had abruptly left his job after complaining about being ill and his wife had filed a missing person’s report on him. They also discovered that Kirk was not working on the day of July 25th, Wednesday’s were always his day off.
Dominos were lining up against Kirk. Despite having no criminal record he had mysteriously disappeared from Baltimore County a week after the murder and police were using a brand new tool called psychological profiling to hunt Dawn’s Killer. The more police learned about Kirk the more he fit the profile.
The Baltimore County Police Department had selected their first local police officer to attend the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia in 1984. On July 25th, 1984 the day of the rape and murder of Dawn Hamilton, Sam Bowerman, a 12 year veteran of the police force was right in the middle of his course in profiling.
From the documentary Bloodsworth an Innocent Man, Kirk talks about the profile
1. Bloodsworth- An Innocent Man- Profile creation
The FBI told Homicide detectives that the profile was not to be substituted for investigative police work, but detectives Capel and Ramsey ignored that warning. Rather than use the profile to narrow their suspects or include new ones, they used it solely to zero in on Kirk Bloodsworth, all investigation stopped after reading the profile. They believed that they had their man, the profile matched. For this exact reason, the FBI usually waits until the police have finished their investigation before they render a profile.
The profile also stated, “it is likely the killer experienced an especially stressful time (possibly involving or caused by a significant other, which set him off. Following the murder he would become more withdrawn and preoccupied. Others will notice a change in his behavior as his lifestyle becomes temporarily very structured and rigid. If employed he will Kelly call in sick or feign and illness to isolate himself from others. If the opportunity presents itself he will attempt to temporarily leave the area through legitimate means.” It further stated that once the perpetrator felt safe again, no amount of fantasizing would meet the needs and he would need to kill again.
They used the profile to dismiss all other leads and avenues of investigation and chose to focus solely on Kirk Bloodsworth.
Kirk finally made it to Cambridge, Massachusetts on Saturday, August 4th, 1984. He went to his parents home but found it locked, they had gone on a short holiday so he walked over to a friend’s home, Tommy Tyler, he spent the weekend drinking and smoking marijuana.
On Monday the 6th he ran into Rose Carson, whom he had known for years. Rose was living with your younger sister Thelma Stultz. Kirk told Rose all about his problems. He told her that he had done something bad and was afraid that it would mean the end of his marriage forever. Rose guessed that it was just the typical marital spat. Kirk said that his intention was to get a job and save some money before returning to Baltimore for his wife. He told Rose that he could pay her for room and board if she allowed him to stay. Rose agreed, she later said that Kirk seemed like a total mess, really strung out and smoking copious amount of marijuana.
That next afternoon Kirk shoved the remainder of his pot into his shoe and went to walk around town. He ran into the local cop who pulled him over, Cambridge Detective Mark Cottom knew Kirk, and he told him that Wanda had filed the missing persons report. He also told him the Baltimore County police were there looking for him. Detective Cottom thought Kirk was a bit jittery, which I think anyone would be with pot on your person speaking with police, but he relaxed when he realized it was all about this silly missing persons business. He told Cottom that he did not want Wanda to know where he was yet and wrote her a short note that he gave to Cottom to give to
Detective Mark Cottom then headed back to the Cambridge police department and called detectives from Baltimore County letting them know that he had located Kirk and he was acting very nervous. Robert Capel and William Ramsey decided that they were going to make the trip to Cambridge to interview Capel. On their way they stopped off at K-mart and purchased little girls’ underwear and a pair of shorts.
The next day, Kirk smoked a joint and shoved the rest of his pot back in his shoe. He looked out the window of Rose Carlson’s kitchen and saw Detective Cottom sitting in the driveway. This time he was joined by Baltimore detective Robert Capel.
Robert Capel introduced himself to Kirk and advised him that he wanted to talk to him about the murder of the little girl at the Fontana Village apartments. He asked Kirk to join him down at the station. As Kirk sat down in the cruiser to travel to the station to talk to detectives again with the pot in his shoe, he saw several cars pull up to the house. While he was being interviewed they intended to search the home.
Back at the station William Ramsey had arranged the little girl’s panties, shorts, and a piece of concrete from the parking lot on the table. The psychological profile told them that the killer would have a reaction to these items. Detective Capel brought him into the room, though confused Kirk had no reaction, so the detectives moved the items to another side table.
They asked Kirk about his wearabouts on the day of the murder, he said essentially what any other person would when being asked about a specific date two weeks after the fact. He wasn’t really sure, but assumed he was at home because it was his day off, he also thought that he may have hung out with Wayne Palmer at his house in the afternoon. Wayne Palmer was Kirk’s friend and also a pot dealer. Detectives showed him a picture of Dawn and asked if he knew her, he stated that he did not and finally they asked him to lift up his shoe and asked his shoe size. He stated that his shoe size was 10.5 and lifted the one without the pot in it for detectives. The sole of the shoe was not a herringbone pattern which the ME had identified on Dawn Hamilton’s neck. Detectives took a polaroid of Krik and after all this they let Kirk go with a warning not to leave town.
Kirk thought that it was over, he figured that rock was the murder weapon and they just had to talk to him because he did resemble the composite sketch. He was stressed and he was 22. It was scary and a little exciting at the same time. When he got back to Rose’s house her sister Thelma was there too, Rose was pissed off because the police had found some pot in the house. Kirk stressed out, rolled a joint and told Thelma and Rose what the police wanted. He told them about the little girl’s clothes and the rock that killed her. Rose was done, she told Kirk to get out she didn’t want anything to do with this. As Kirk prepared to leave, Thelma asked if she could get her high. She was friends with Detective Cottom and he had asked her to get Kirk to talk. They walked and smoked Pot and Kirk relayed his disbelief in this whole thing. He talked about what he remembered from the murder and he talked about the interrogation. They ran into some other friends and that night as he drank and got high he couldn’t stop talking. Kirk met up with friends Tina Furbush and Tina Chirstopher. He drank more and he kept smoking. The entire time he talked about the murder. Again he relayed what he remembered from the news about the crime. The more intoxicated that he became the more he mumbled about the interview and about the news reports. To those in the room, they were unable to distinguish one from the other.
Thelma Shultz got home that night and called Detective Cottom. She reported that Kirk had talked about the rock as the murder weapon and about being upset and guilty when he saw the girl’s panties. When Detective’s Capel and Ramsey heard this report they thought they nailed their man, they never released the murder weapon, so why was Kirk Bloodsworth going around talking about the rock. It never occurred to them that he would make the assumption that a rock killed the little girl because they had one on the table when he walked into the interrogation room.
Detectives Capel and Ramsey drove back to Baltimore County with the Polaroid of Kirk Bloodsworth. They arranged a photo lineup. It held 6 men, two did not have mustaches, and one had a beard. Seven year old Jackie Poling reviewed the photos and told police the man he saw on July 25th was not in them. Capel noted that he thought the boy was distracted and more interested in getting back to his television show than identifying anyone. Ten year old Christian Shipley reviewed the lineup. He said that Kirk Bloodsworth looked the most like the man he saw with Dawn, but his hair was lighter, more blond and less red. After more prodding Christopher eventually agreed that Kirk’s photo was the man that walked with Dawn into the woods.
Detectives decided that Christian had always been the stronger witness, the dismissed the fact that both men had described a thin man, and the hair color was off. They were like a train at full speed now barreling towards a conviction, everything else seemed to be a blur out the window. They obtained an arrest warrant and went to locate Kirk Bloodsworth.
They found him in the middle of the night at his cousin’s home. They arrested him, interviewed him again with the same accusatory statements. Kirk became obstinate. He continued to declare his innocence. They officially arrested him that day for the rape and murder of Dawn Hamilton. He was escorted to the courthouse for a bail hearing, when they arrived the media was everywhere. Cameras flashed and reporters screamed questions at him, Kirk held his head high and proud, he had done nothing wrong so he had nothing to be ashamed of.
When the news aired that night, James Keller watched Kirk Bloodsworth on the television. He lived in Fontana Village and told police that he had seen Bloodsworth the morning of the murder lounging by a fence near the pond. He reported this for the first time ever sixteen days after the crime. Despite seeing Kirk Bloodsworth on the news, police asked that Mr. Keller come in for a live line up the following Monday.
Kirk Bloodsworth face was all over the news, Detectives realizing their conundrum had to do something, they hadn’t yet done a line-up. They knew that their witness identifications could be called into question if they first saw the man one the news. Their solution was to call their witnesses and let them know that they had arrested murderer, Kirk Bloodsworth, and ask them nicely not to watch the news.
Nancy Hall was contacted by Detective Capel and told not to watch television that night. She couldn’t help herself, the murder was big news and it happened right in her own backyard. She identified Kirk Bloodsworth in a live line-up.
Donna Ferguson was also contacted. Though she didn’t directly admit to seeing Kirk Bloodsworth on the news, she did admit that the TV was on all weekend. She identified Kirk Bloodsworth in a live line-up
Debbie McNamera had seen a man on an electrical box outside her apartment, just as Nancy Hall and Donna Ferguson had said. She was also contacted by detectives and told not to watch the news and detectives again named Kirk Bloodsworth as the murderer. Debbie admitted to seeing Kirk on the news before the line-up and pointed him out before the line-up, but a short time later she recanted the identification stating that she had confused him with another man. She was never called to the stand at trial.
Christian Shipley also saw the line-up. He failed to identify anyone in the lineup room, but when he left he told detectives that number 6 was the man he saw. Kirk Bloodsworth was standing in the sixth position.
Jackie Poling picked out number three as the man he saw at the pond. Two weeks later Jackie’s mother would call detectives and tell them that after the line-up Jackie told her that the man he saw was actually number six, Kirk Bloodsworth, he was just too afraid to say so.
Fay McCoullough, the woman who tried to assist police with a composite sketch, did not identify Kirk Bloodsworth in the line-up and there were several others who refused to identify Kirk as well, but by this time detectives were sure they had their man. They had 5 eyewitnesses, three adults and two children and they were confident moving into the trial phase.
Kirk Bloodsworth was appointed two public defenders to represent him at trial Steven Scheinin and David Henninger.
Lets listen to Kirk talking about his court appointed attorney during a speech at Duke University
2.Duke University- Kirk 1st lawyer impression
Kirk called his father and begged him to hire a private attorney. Curtis Bloodsworth had borrowed from the bank already and money was tight, he had spoken with friends that advised him that public defenders were actually the best people to represent Kirk as they all had experience in murder trials.
Kirk was afraid, but despite their rocky opening Steve Scheinin was committed to representing Kirk to the best of his ability. Kirk had told his attorney’s about his alibi.
Wanda Bloodsworth, had backtracked her way to July 25th and figured out that she had a doctor’s appointment on July 25th and then her and her sister Dawn had gone to the welfare office for money that day. Wanda’s mother Birdie came over to the house that morning to wake her girls up around 9am. All state that Kirk was at the home that day. They even remembered that that morning as Kirk slept the cat creeped onto Kirk’s back and peed on him. Everyone remembers how angry Kirk was that morning. All three women say that they left the house at around 10:30 that morning and Kirk was still there.
Birdie said that after Wanda and Dawn left for their appointments she remained at the home with Kirk until almost noon that day, waiting to have lunch with her husband. She said that after the lunch she came back to the house at 1:30pm, she said that Kirk was out with his friend Wayne Palmer, buying pot, but he arrived shortly after 1:30.
Tammy Albin lived in the house too, she owned the kitten that had peed on Kirk that morning. She remembers getting up at 10:30am that morning. She said Birdie, Wanda, and Dawn are all at the house. She also remembered Kirk being there and advised that he stayed home until about 1:30pm that day. Joey Martin, Kirk’s brother in law, remembers the day the same way. He stayed home and didn’t leave until after one that day.
Wayne Palmer, Kirk’s friend, initially told police that Kirk was not with him that day, but later realized that he had messed up the dates. He tried to call detectives to correct his error, but no one ever called him back. He remembered being with Kirk that day, as Kirk was helping him fix his car from around one that day to three o’clock. They had left sometime in the afternoon when they ran out of pot.
Jeffery Wright had also came to the house that day. He was trying to sell a rifle. He stated that he tried to sell the rifle with no success but ran into Kirk that afternoon with a man named Wayne. He had gone with them to buy pot, he sold the rifle at a sporting goods store along the way. He had a receipt for the sale.
Kirk’s attorneys were concerned how these witnesses would come across to the jury. They were a rag tag group, but overall their story was consistent and they had documentation to confirm their accounts. None of them had to recall their whereabouts until two weeks after July 25th so of course there were going to be minor inconsistencies, but still the attorneys worried that the jury may not believe them.
Steve Scheinin turned to forensic evidence with the hope that he could clear his client without ever having to worry about his alibi witnesses. He was hoping to use genetic material to find a blood type to exclude Kirk. During the autopsy the ME had talked cotton swabs to retrieve fluid from Dawn Hamilton’s mouth, vagina, and rectum. Under a microscope the ME noted the presence of sperm. He obtained a vaginal and anal wash, then turned over the swabs to Detective Ramsey to be transported to the FBI lab for testing along with all of the physical evidence including Dawn’s clothing, the rock, and the Big Red gum wrapper. The FBI also received all the items seized from Kirk Bloodsworth home for testing as well.
Scheinin pushed forward with trying to get the physical evidence so he could have it tested by his own experts. Eventually he is given a report from the FBI lab stating that they found no sperm or testable evidence on Dawn Hamilton. He pushed the prosecutor on how that could possibly be, but was never given an answer. When he asked for the anal and vaginal washings first he was told that they were with the FBI, then that the samples had been destroyed, and finally he was told by the prosecutor’s office that no washings ever existed.
He confirmed that the FBI had found no physical evidence, hair, fingerprints, blood, or anything else that could link Kirk Bloodsworth to Dawn Hamilton’s murder. However he also had to accept that the FBI refused to test any other suspect. There was a hair found on Dawn Hamilton, it did not match Kirk Bloodsworth or Dawn Hamilton, but they had not tested against anyone else.
Kirk’s attorney’s felt that the state had a weak case, it relied solely on eyewitness testimony. The trial was set to begin on February 25th, 1985. Judge William Hinkle of the Baltimore County Court would preside over the trial. He had a reputation as being a tough judge, who liked to keep things moving quickly. The District Attorney at the time Sandra O’Connor had chosen Robert Lazaro to represent the state. Ann Brobst would assist. Lazaro was well dressed, impressive man. He was a rising star in the DA’s office and he stood in stark contrast to the two attorneys representing Kirk.
Kirk was facing the death penalty and in Maryland the state is entitled to a death-qualified jury. Potential jurors that state that they do not believe in the death penalty are immediately stricken from the jury. Defense attorney’s have long asserted that death-qualified juries are prejudicial to their clients. Those that do not believe in the death penalty are often the same people that hold fast to the standard of innocent until proven guilty. In a study published by Hanley in Law and Human Behavior they found that void dire death qualification increases the subjects’ belief in the guilt of the defendant and increased the judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys estimate of guilt in the defendant. In other words in the death qualification phase, prospective jurors start to believe that everyone in the court room is sure of the accused guilt, otherwise why would they be subjected to the death penalty. What was unknown in this case was that the District Attorney, Sandra O’Connor in an attempt to avoid the appearance of impropriety had a policy that every case that qualified for the death penalty, would be tried as a death penalty case, no matter the circumstances or lack of physical evidence.
The trial officially started on March 1st, 1985 after Judge Hinkle certified his death qualified jury. Kirk watched opening arguments and felt sick to his stomach. The prosecutor Richard Lazaro was polished and told a story to the jury, but Steve Scheinin took a different approach. He focused on the faulty investigation telling the jury that the police had failed. He stated that the physical evidence could only lead the jury to acquit Kirk, he made no mention of Kirk’s alibi and never provided the jury with an explaination of how Kirk would know that the rock was the murder weapon.
At the trial Lazzaro and Brobst introduced the photographs of Dawn Hamilton’s murder scene. Scheinin objected to the photographs he argued that they were too prejudicial to his client. Judge Hinkle weighed the photographs. The prosecution argued that the photographs were crucial to their case to display the location of the crime and state of the body when it was found. Ultimately Judge Hinkle sided with the prosecution. The photographs of the gruesome murder of a nine year old little girl with her head bashed in, half naked, and a stick protruding from her vagina were passed around one by one to the jurors.
The ME was called to the stand and told the jury that the cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head and strangulation
Detective Ramsey and Capel had taken a pair of shoes from Kirk’s home, that matched the design on the victim’s neck. The Detectives told Scheinin before the trial that the shoes were size 10.5, Kirk’s shoe size was 10.5. Kirk had told his attorney that the shoes did not belong to him.
When Detective Ramsey takes the stand he states that he took a ruler and measured the shoes from toe to heel and they are 10.5 inches. Even the prosecutor was surprised by this. It was at this point that Scheinin realized that the shoes in question are actually size 8. Shoe size is a fairly common measurement. I do not know a single person who would measure a shoe with a ruler. The ME obviously did that for the markingson Dawn’s neck, but they are not comparing apples to apples. Those shoes may have matched the markings on Dawn Hamilton’s neck but they were 2.5 sizes smaller than Kirk Bloodsworth wore.
Prosecutors Lazzaro and Brobst next began their eyewitnesses. They called Nancy Hall and Donna Ferguson. Both testified that they saw Kirk Bloodsworth sitting on an electrical box outside their apartment at Fontana Village. Sheinin for his credit did get them to admit to their prior inconsistent statements, the fact that they were both high the morning of July 25th, and that Nancy Hall had originally identified her acquaintance Mickey Manzari as the culprit, however he never let the jury know that both Nancy Hall and Donna Ferguson had seen Kirk Bloodsworth on the television arrested just before the police line-up.
James Keller was called next, he told the jury that he had seen a stranger walking by the roadside near the murder scene on his way to work on the morning of July 25th. He pointed to Kirk Bloodsworth in the courtroom as the man he had seen. Kirk’s attorney again failed to tell the jury that James Keller had only contacted police after seeing Kirk arrested on television, two weeks after the crime.
Christian Shipley took the stand next. He recounted his memory from the day of the murder and them pointed the finger at Kirk Bloodsworth as the man he saw on July 25th, 1985 walking away with Dawn Hamilton. Steve Schienin entered Christian Shipley’s police statement into evidence, highlighting the height discrepancy and got Christopher to stipulate that the man he saw had honey blond hair, a far cry from Kirk Bloodsworth’s red hair, but he had to be careful not to be too hard on a child in front of the jury.
When Jackie Poling was called he did not identify Kirk Bloodsworth as the man he saw walk away with Dawn Hamilton, just as he had done in the police line-up, but Lazzaro and Brobst called his mother to the stand immediately after him. She told the jury that after the lineup Jackie had told her that Kirk Bloodsworth was the man he saw that day, he was just too afraid to admit it.
Others were called to assist the prosecution as well, including those who he spoke to after that initial interview with police. Rose Carson testified that Kirk had told her that he had done a very bad thing. Tina Christopher had troubles remembering the conversation with Kirk after his initial interview but eventually agreed that he had rambled on about a little girl, a bloody rock, and some guy that was supposedly with him who had supposedly committed the crime.
Detective Capel then took the stand and affirmed the case, and advised the jury that although they had a rock on the interview table with Kirk, the detective doubted that he had ever seen it.
When it was the defense’s turn to submit their case, Steve Scheinin called all of Kirk’s alibi witnesses to the stand. They all recounted their memories of July 25th and backed up their accounts with receipts from the sporting goods store and confirmations of doctor’s appointments, however when prosecutor Ann Brobst cross examined them she made them look unreliable. She asked them to recount random days and they were unable to do so, leaving the jury to think that they were unreliable.
Wanda’s mother, Birdie, was the best witness for the defense. She was poised on the stand and stood in stark contrast to her children and Kirk’s friends. However, Steve Scheinin asked her if Kirk had done something bad, she responded yes, but when Scheinin asked her to tell the jury what that bad thing was, the prosecution objected on grounds of hearsay. Judge Hinkle agreed and would not allow Birdie to answer. This meant that the jury heard that Kirk had told her that he had done something bad, but never heard that it was actually that he left his wife and did not bring her a taco salad for dinner.
Kirk Bloodsworth took the stand in his own defense. He tried to relate to the jury his account of what had transpired and how he ended up before them. He told the jury that the bad thing he was talking about was leaving his wife and not getting her a taco salad. When Lazzaro cross examined him he threw Kirk off. He asked questions related to the psychological profile. He asked about his mother and the domineering women in his life. He made jokes at Kirk about his Taco Salad story. Kirk had worked for a short time at a funeral home so he honed in on that, he used that psychological profile to paint a picture of a very disturbed man.
Steve Scheinin called other character witnesses for Kirk and a shoe expert to show that the shoes in question at the trial were not Kirk’s and would not reasonably fit on Kirk’s foot. He also tried to introduce expert testimony regarding the eyewitness identifications. The prosecution objected to the testimony and it was ultimately decided that Judge Hinkle would hear the testimony without the jury and make the decision if any of it was relevant for the jury. Judge Hinkle heard the testimony, but ultimately decided that none of it was worthwhile for the jury, stating that it would mislead and confuse the jury. The jury would go into deliberations without any expert testimony on eyewitness misidentifications.
When Ann Brobst and Robert Lazzaro rose to give closing arguments, they pointed to the 5 eyewitnesses, Krik leaving the city, and the statements he made to his friends in Cambridge. They argued that all those put together were too much for jurors to ignore. They relayed the psychological profile and how closely it matched to Kirk Bloodsworth, highlighting that if given the chance he would do this again.
Steve Scheinin for his credit provided a passionate closing, he admitted the alibi witnesses were not perfect, but they were the people actually with Kirk on July 25th. He pointed to the lack of physical evidence and the inconsistencies in the eyewitness testimony. He stressed to the jury the existence of reasonable doubt in this case and with that the jury was sent off for their deliberations.
On March 8th, 1985 after deliberating for only two and a half hours, they found Kirk guilty of first degree murder. When the sentencing phase came, Kirk was sick, he had put his faith in the jurors and they had failed him, so he opted this time to have Judge Hinkle make the judgement on whether or not he should be put to death. The sentencing phase of the trial was set for March 22nd.
Before the sentencing, an investigator hired by Kirk’s father found reports written by Detective Marc Bacon. In the reports he detailed his suspicions regarding Richard Gray, the man who first discovered Dawn’s panties and shorts in the woods. Kirk’s attorney was furious and found the non-disclosure of the documents a clear Brady Violation. A hearing was scheduled to be heard before Judge Hinkle days before the sentencing. After hearing Marc Bacon testify and having the prosecutors state that Richard Gray was investigated intensely, Judge Hinkle ruled against the defense stating that if the jury had had the information regarding Richard Gray it would not have impacted their verdict.
On March 28th, 1985 Judge Hinkle signed a death warrant for Kirk Nobel Bloodsworth. The prosecution again relied heavily on the psychological profile created by the FBI to help Judge Hinkle render his decision, calling Kirk Bloodsworth a monster over and over again.
Kirk was sickened, he felt like everyone was against him, he had placed his faith in the justice system and felt that he was failed at every step.
That same day, Judge Hinkle received a phone call from Dr. Gene Ostrom of the Eastern Regional Mental Health Center located close to where Dawn Hamilton was killed. He told the judge that a patient of the clinic appeared the day of Dawn’s murder without an appointment asking to speak to a counselor about a relationship with a young girl. The patient, David Rehill, looked a lot like the composite sketch of the killer. Dr. Ostrom advised the judge that making this call weighed heavily on him as he was breaking client confidentiality but he could not sit idly by while an innocent man was sentenced to death. Judge Hinkle called the prosecutor Robert Lazzaro after the phone call relayed the information and told him to pass it along to Kirk Bloodswoth’s attorneys. Lazzaro gave the information to Detectives Ramsey and Capel, but failed to inform Bloodsworth’s defense.
Because this was a death penalty case in the state of Maryland, Kirk Bloodsworth, was immediately entitled to an appeal of his conviction to the Maryland Supreme Court. Curtis Bloodsworth, Kirk’s father, convinced the public defender’s office that there was more to investigate in this case. They found several unfollowed leads, including that of Richard Gray and his failed polygraph exams, and Cowboy Bob’s strange behavior, and even the candy man that handed out candy if small little girls would sit on her lap. They argued in front of the supreme court for ineffective assistance of counsel, actual innocence, lack of evidence to convict and brady violations.
On July 29th, 1986 the court of appeals rendered its verdict. They found that because the DA had not disclosed information regarding Richard Gray this was a clear brady violation, they also found that though there was enough evidence to convict Kirk, Judge Hinkle erred in not allowing the defenses expert testimony on eyewitness identifications and for not allowing Birdie, Wanda’s mother, explain what “bad thing” Kirk had done. Two years after his original conviction Kirk Bloodsworth was going back to court with a new trial.
Kirk’s parents were ecstatic about the reversal of the conviction and the new trial. Curtis Bloodsworth vowed that he would do anything possible to clear his son’s name. He took out a loan from the bank to hire Leslie Stein to represent Kirk. Kirk had heard from other inmates that Stein was a winner and if anyone could get him out of prison Stein could. Curtis paid Stein’s retainer and he took over for the public defender’s office.
While Kirk was obsessed with finding the actual killer, Stein felt that the state’s case was weak and they didn’t need to find the killer only provide the jury with reasonable doubt. He convinced Kirk that his alibi witnesses were losers, they were useless at trial and did more to hurt him than help and also convinced him that it was best for him not to take the stand this time. Stein’s approach would be to shine a light on the eyewitnesses and call their identifications into question. Stein decided later on that Richard Gray was a better suspect than Kirk, so the goal would be to focus on him as the true culprit.
Eleven days before the trial began the prosecution informed Stein of the conversation Judge Hinkle had had with Dr. Ostrom two years prior regarding his patient, David Rehill. Stein sent an investigator out to the clinic, but two years had passed and no one remembered anything. With little time left to prepare, Stein decided that Richard Gray would be the scapegoat for the defense.
Ann Brobst would take the lead in the retrial of Kirk Bloodsworth as Robert Lazzaro had left the state’s attorney’s office shortly after the first trial. Judge James Smith would preside over the trial. Judge Smith stood in stark contrast to Judge Hinkle. Judge Smith liked to take his time and liked to make sure everyone understood each part of the trial. He had a solid reputation of being a fair and empathetic judge.
The second trial began on March 23, 1987. The State had not changed much of their case against Kirk. They called the same forensic analysts and the same 5 eyewitnesses, it soon became clear that Leslie Stein was in fact a skilled attorney. He slowly chipped away at each witness the prosecution called. He also called into question the assumption that the rock was the actual murder weapon and he brough up Richard Gray’sname as much as possible, slowly pointing the jury towards his alternate suspect.
Unfortunately the prosecution was allowed again to introduce the crime scene photos of Dawn Hamilton and it carried much the same weight as it had in the first trial. Stein knew that it would be difficult for them to find Kirk not guilty. The photographs were gruesome and the jury had to already know that a previous jury had convicted Kirk.
When the defense had its turn Stein called Fay McCoullough. She had worked with Detective Capel to create a composite sketch of the man she saw on the day of the murder. When it did not match that of Christopher Shipley, Detective Capel became frustrated and threw the picture in the trash. After he left Fay had taken that composite sketch out of the trash and held onto it. She told the jury that without a doubt Kirk Bloodsworth was not the man she saw on July 25th.
Stein called a slew of other experts and friends of Kirk’s to question the evidence and to explain away Kirk’s statements about the “bad thing” he had done. But his coup d’etat was supposed to be when he called Richard Gray to the stand, but Ann Brobst had seen right through Stein’s trial strategy and she had prepared Richard Gray for his testimony. Gray had answers for every question Stein posed and explanations for every accusation. In rebuttal Ann Brobst called police officers to the stand to further solidify Gray’s answers.
With the testimony of Richard Gray, Leslie Stein rested the defense’s case. Kirk Bloodsworth had not taken the stand to provide his account, no one testified as to Kirk’s character, and none of his original alibi witnesses were called to the stand.
The next day the jury deliberated for six hours. For the first time in a long time, Kirk felt confident. Whispers around the courthouse were that Bloodsworth was going to be set free. No one thought that the state had made their case beyond a reasonable doubt. Unfortunately when the jury came back, Kirk head the foreman once again call a verdict- Guilty of the first degree murder of Dawn Venice Hamilton.
Leslie Stein immediately filed a motion for a new trial based on a Brady violation for the untimely turn over of the information of an alternative suspect David Rehill. Judge Smith ordered the hearing on the motion set for June 12th, 1987 if denied sentencing would immediately follow.
Despite his poor luck with Judge Hinkle, Kirk Bloodsworth once again chose to be sentenced by Judge Smith. Kirk felt like he was a much gentler man and hoped that he could see through the emotion and focus on the facts of the case.
On June 12th, 1987 the evidentiary hearing began. Stein called to the stand Dr. Ostrom and had him recount his recollection of July 25th, 1984 and the conversation he had with Judge Hinkle two years prior. Stein had also located witnesses from the clinic who remember David Rehill showing up with scratches on his face. He also called David Rehill to the stand as well. Rehill was accompanied by his attorney. He testified about his general appearance in 1984, but when asked about his whereabouts on July 25th, his attorney objected and instructed Rehill to exercise his 5th amendment right. Stein asked the prosecution to grant Rehill immunity if they were so sure of their case, so the truth could come out, but Ann Brobst refused.
Leslie Stein put up a good fight for a new trial. Judge Smith was outraged that the state and the detectives had never followed up on the Rehill lead, but ultimately he advised the fault lay with Stein. He was provided the information before the trial began, if he felt that he needed more time to investigate he should have requested a continuance, which he had not. Judge Smith denied the motion for a new trial. He advised that sentencing would commence after a short break.
Judge Smith carried serious doubts regarding the veracity of the verdict. Personally he did not feel that the prosecution met its burden to prove guilt, but he was not going to overturn the verdict of the jury. He instead decided to sentence Kirk Bloodsworth to life in prison. Although it was a victory in the smallest sense, Kirk was again stunned and he was now facing the rest of his life in a small box.
Everyday of his imprisonment Kirk wrote a letter, he wrote to celebrities, people he admired, defense attorneys, anyone he could think of. In his letters he would tell his story and each one he would sign Kirk Noble Bloodsworth A.I.M. (An Innocent Man). Kirk spent his time in prison, lifting weights and reading every book he could find. He even worked in the prison library for a time. He told anyone that would listen that an innocent man was in prison.
One day after reading a book called the Blooding, Kirk learned about a new technology that was used to convict a man overseas. They had used DNA genetic fingerprinting to find the guilty culprit. A lightbulb went off in Krik’s head, if they could use DNA genetic fingerprinting to convict someone, maybe it could be used to free him. Flashes of the documents from his trial went through his head, the stains on Dawn’s underwear, the anal washings, the slides that the ME concluded held the presence of sperm. Kirk wrote a letter to Ann Brobst asking that the physical evidence be tested, he received a letter back from Brobst apologizing to Bloodsworth, advising that the physical evidence had been inadvertently destroyed. Kirk was destroyed, he thought maybe they had destroyed it on purpose, he lost faith in everyone and everything, yet still he continued to write his letters every single day.
One day Kirk received a letter back from Gary Christopher. Kirk had written to him on a whim hoping that he could help with his case, Mr. Christopher advised that he was going to have an attorney, Bob Morin, come and see him in prison. He thought that maybe Bob could help.
Robert Morin was up to his eyeballs in wrongful conviction cases, his focus was on those people that were on death row, they were the ones that needed his expertise the most. Despite this at the prompting of his friend, he stopped in to visit Kirk and listen to his story. After hearing his story and talking with him in person, there was no doubt for Bob Morin he had to take the case. He made no promises to Kirk Bloodsworth, only that he would try. Kirk Bloodsworth was flabbergasted, not only had Bob Morin agreed to represent him he had done so pro bono. Kirk immediately told Bob about the new DNA technology and requested that he find the physical evidence in his case.
Bob Morin searched high and low, everywhere he went he was another let down. The FBI said the Baltimore County police had it and so on and so forth. After digging through an old refrigerator in the Medical Examiner’s office Bob was able to find the anal washings and the original slides still frozen from 1984. Morin then contacted the most prestigious lab doing DNA genetic fingerprinting in the country. The lab was located in California, they informed Morin that they could replicate DNA from the smallest most microscopic of samples, but warned Morin that the slides had been preserved and that process often spoiled any DNA. They requested an uncontaminated sample. Morin knew that the FBI had marked a spot on Dawn Hamilton’s underwear where they suspected fluid from the assailant, but they were unable to find any upon testing. Morin just could not locate the evidence, nothing was where it was supposed to be. Kirk Bloodsworth called Bob Morin every chance he got….
Here is Kirk from the documentary Bloodsworth: An Innocent Man
3. Bloodsworth- An Innocent Man- Bob Morin finds DNA
Judge Smith was so unsure about the conviction of Kirk Bloodsworth that he decided to hold onto the physical evidence in his own closet. He thought that maybe someday someone might need it and wanted to keep it safe. Robert Morin made a deal with prosecutor Ann Brobst to have the DNA tested. Bob Morin would foot the bill for the testing fee, $10,000, if the state allowed the evidence to be tested at the lab in California. The lab would release their methods and results to the FBI for confirmation once the tests were complete. Ann Brobst agreed. Ultimately it was one half of one cell of DNA that was replicated in a lab that would clear Kirk Bloodsworth.
The results came back on April 27th, 1993. The lab had conclusively found that the underwear of Dawn Venice Hamilton did in fact have spermatozoa on them and that genetic fingerprint was not a match for Kirk Bloodsworth. Ann Brobst had no choice, on June 28th, 1993 after the FBI confirmed the results, Kirk Bloodsworth was a free man, completely vindicated.
Kirk’s release from prison was bittersweet, he was free from prison, but he had always felt that his search for justice was not only for him, but also for Dawn Hamilton as well. Kirk became involved in the fight to overturn the death penalty in Maryland and he was often asked to speak for legislators and students. He would tell his story, but it always lacked an ending. The State had gone after him so fervently, but now that he was vindicated, it did not seem like they cared much to find Dawn’s real killer.
He called the prosecutor’s office in late 1993 and asked for an update on the Dawn Hamilton case, he was told that there was not enough money to run the DNA through the new database, CODIS, for a cold hit in the system. The State of Maryland had spent years building the database, taking swabs from each individual incarcerated in a crime, but for some reason they could not find the funds to get justice for Dawn. By this time Kirk had settled with the State of Maryland for his wrongful conviction for $300,000. He knew that he could have gotten more, but was soured with the justice system and just wanted this debacle to end. He had used most of the money to pay back his father and finally purchase his own fishing boat, which he named Freedom, but he had enough left over to pay for the testing to get justice for Dawn. They told him that they could not do that, it would be improper, Kirk was flabbergasted.
Over the years he continued to be a voice for wrongful convictions, he helped to create and supported a bill making it easier for prisoner to get access to funds to prove their innocence using DNA, and he was a vocal about his distaste for the death penalty in Maryland. He told his story over and over again, but in 2003, ten years after his release he started to tell reporters that the state of Maryland couldn’t find the funds to get justice for Dawn Hamilton. Several reporters started to ask questions, then suddenly the funds appeared. In the documentary Bloodsworth: An Innocent Man, Kirk recounts how he found out about the cold hit from the DNA sample.
4. Bloodsworth- An Innocent Man- Cold Hit
Kimberly Ruffner, also known as the Fells Point Rapist, was an early tip in the rape and murder of Dawn Hamilton. Detectives felt like the descriptions were not right as there was a considerable height difference, so much weight was placed on the eyewitness testimony of two small children. Once Kirk Bloodsworth became a suspect all other investigative avenues were stopped. Kirk Bloodsworth had not only obtained justice for himself, but he was instrumental in obtaining justice for Dawn Venice Hamilton.
In 2013, the state of Maryland repealed the death penalty, many have said that Kirk Bloodsworth played a huge roll in this effort. He will go down in history as the first man ever on death row in the United States that was exonerated by DNA.
I appreciate you taking the time to listen to us today, next year we are going to start up with new episodes for season two, so I hope you can join us. If you haven’t visited our website you can find us at bowtofate.com, where you can find the transcripts for this episode or donate to keep us up and running. I want to thank DJ Brooks for providing the show with music and artwork, I love you honey. Don’t forget to like us on Facebook or send a tweet to @Bowtofatepod and if you get a chance please subscribe to our podcast to stay up to date with current episodes. Feel free to send us an email at email@example.com with your suggestions for upcoming episodes or call and leave a voicemail at 725-222-FATE, you may just end up on the podcast. Till next time, stay safe and keep listening.