First person on Death Row exonerated by DNA calls on lawmakers to abolish death penalty in WA

The first person on Death Row exonerated by DNA evidence is calling on state lawmakers to abolish the death penalty in Washington.

Kirk Bloodsworth is touring the state and sharing his story as a bill to ban capital punishment makes its way through the Legislature.

“The prosecutor called me a monster,” recounted Bloodsworth as he spoke to folks at Emmanuel Apostolic Church in Bremerton.

He regards himself as a living example of why people should not be sentenced to death.

“If it can happen to an honorably discharged Marine with no criminal record, criminal history, it can happen to anyone in America,” Bloodsworth said.

He was convicted in 1985 for the rape and murder of a little girl in Maryland.

“Five identification witnesses positively said it was me,” Bloodsworth added.

He maintained his innocence.

As an avid reader and prison librarian at Maryland Penitentiary, Bloodsworth pushed for DNA testing after reading Joseph Wambaugh’s book “The Blooding” about the first killer caught using DNA evidence.

He’d spend nearly nine years behind bars, facing death, before DNA exonerated him.

“I was elated,” he said. “There was a haunting thing behind me, too, that seemed to question everybody else. And it took another 10 years to put to rest and that was who killed Dawn Hamilton?”

Bloodsworth’s visit comes as a bill to abolish the death penalty cleared a Senate committee in Olympia earlier this week. The latest bill seeks to replace capital punishment with life imprisonment without parole.

In 2014, Gov. Jay Inslee placed a moratorium on the death penalty.

Washington has eight inmates on Death Row and most have been there for a decade or more while millions of dollars have been spent on mandatory appeals.

So, after 27 years in the Prosecutor’s Office, King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg has now come out against the death penalty.

“This doesn't serve the needs of victims at all. It strings these cases out for decades and decades and the victims I've dealt with who have cases on death row are always worried that some court somewhere is going to let them out,” Satterberg explained.

With Bloodsworth’s help, Maryland abolished capital punishment in 2013.

And now he’s sending this message to Washington State Lawmakers.

“End the death penalty before it kills an innocent person,” Bloodsworth said.

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