This is the second in a series of public forums KU-YAL members participated in during April Activism month.
On April 15th, a day marked by what the government has traditionally taken away from citizens across the country, University of Kansas students hosted a man who had his life taken by the state. KU-YAL in cooperation with other campus groups and the Kansas Coalition Against the Death Penalty were host to Kirk Noble Bloodsworth: An Innocent Man, the 1st death row exoneree who had been falsely convicted of the murder and rape of nine year-old girl Dawn Hamilton.
Students were encouraged to contact their local representatives and express their thoughts on the current death penalty in Kansas.
Kirk detailed step by step how in 1985 investigators failed to use key evidence, covered up inconvenient truths about his whereabouts, believed questionable eye witness accounts, didn’t present a suspect (who turned out to be the actual murder) and would later hide material evidence effectively convicting a honorably discharged Marine to death by gas.
He continued in describing his incarceration and the deplorable conditions he was forced to live in, the dangerous challenges of his survival among dangerous men.
Throughout all of this he was able to keep his faith even after his mother’s death during his imprisonment and discovered the emerging use of DNA evidence in crime scene investigation. He was proved innocent by a test 10 years later, confirming with clothes from the scene that they not only caught the wrong man, but knew who actually committed the horrific act.
Kirk is now among 142 men who were freed thanks to DNA evidence. He spreads his story across the country and advocates for freedom of the wrongly accused and the abolition of the death penalty with the Innocence Project.
This month Kirk successfully helped end the death penalty in his home state of Maryland making it the the 19th state to abolish it.
In the Maryland fight, organizations cited a myriad of reasons to abolish the state’s power to kill prisoners including mistakes made, the individual’s right to life, racial disparities for convictions, and the tremendous cost.
How the U.S. ranks with rest of the world:
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