Kirk Bloodsworth

State: Maryland

Convicted: 1985

Exonerated: 1993

Race: Caucasian

DNA used in exoneration? Yes

Reasons for wrongful conviction:

Mistaken witness identification

Prosecutorial Misconduct

Kirk's Wrongful Conviction

An honorably discharged Marine, Kirk Bloodsworth is the first person in the United States to be exonerated from death row based on DNA testing. In 1984, he was arrested for the rape and murder of nine-year-old Dawn Hamilton. He was sentenced to death in Baltimore County, Maryland in 1985.

In 1989, Kirk read about a new forensic breakthrough called DNA fingerprinting and in 1992 lobbied successfully for prosecutors' approval for its use on evidence collected at the crime scene in 1985. The tests incontrovertibly established Kirk’s innocence, and he was released in June 1993 after nearly nine years in prison, two of which he spent on death row.

In December 1994, Maryland Governor William Donald Schaefer granted Kirk a full pardon based on innocence. In 2003, the real killer was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

Kirk's Work Today

Kirk currently lives in Philadelphia and is the Executive Director of Witness to Innocence.

Since his exoneration, Kirk has devoted himself to abolishing the death penalty and addressing wrongful convictions. He has testified before the United States Congress as well as numerous state legislatures. Kirk worked in eight of the nine states that have abolished the death penalty in the last 25 years, including his home state of Maryland, where his name was mentioned 64 times during the floor debate in the legislature. He was featured on Oprah twice as well as on CNN’s Larry King Live. He has authored op-eds and given countless other media interviews.

Kirk has been an ardent supporter of the Innocence Protection Act, which is aimed at reducing the risk of executing innocent people. The Act established the Kirk Bloodsworth Post-Conviction DNA Testing Program to help states defray the costs of testing DNA evidence after conviction. Though the Act was signed into law in 2004, it took another four years of lobbying efforts to secure federal funding. Kirk fought to ensure that the program in his name was fully funded, and today it provides $10 million per year in federal grants.

The mutual support and camaraderie of his fellow exonerees has been and continues to be of central importance to Kirk. He has been a member of Witness to Innocence since its inception. After teaching himself the art of silversmithing, Kirk created signature “exoneree” and “death row exoneree” 28g sterling silver rings, which he has gifted to 235 exonerees to date.


Bloodsworth: the True Story of the First Death Row Inmate Exonerated by DNA

  • Written by Tim Junkin

  • Selected as the 2018 One Maryland One Book

Bloodsworth: An Innocent Man

  • Documentary directed by Gregory Bayne released in February 2016

  • "The remarkable true story of the 1st death row inmate exonerated by DNA in the U.S."

In The Media:

2.5.13 A Death Penalty Fight Comes Home

3.10.13 Once On Death Row, He Now Fights To Defeat The Death Penalty

6.26.13 From Death Row To Free Man

10.16.13 Kirk Bloodsworth: The First Man To Be Exonerated By DNA Evidence

4.6.14 Of Course the Death Penalty Is Cruel and Unusual

6.11.14 Former death row inmate becomes Exhibit A for how eyes can lie

12.15.15 First death row inmate exonerated with DNA in U.S. tells his story

9.28.16 Former death row inmate’s story of exoneration told through film showing tonight at SNHU

10.10.16 Death Row Inmate Describes Exoneration by DNA Evidence, Prison Reform Activism

1.6.17 Bloodsworth on a mission to reform criminal justice in the United States

10.30.17 For those exonerated of criminal convictions in Maryland, payment now in works

1.27.18 Exonerated man urges end to death penalty in Bremerton speech

1.29.18 Effort to abolish death penalty in Washington gains steam after it clears Senate committee

2.8.18 The Former Death Row Prisoner Making Rings for the Exonerated

3.1.18 I was an innocent man awaiting execution: End the death penalty

4.7.18 From death row to freedom: Why story of Kirk Bloodsworth's DNA exoneration still resonates

4.20.18 If you're wrongfully convicted, Maryland wants to help

5.1.18 Kirk Bloodsworth's new passion: Championship rings for those who won freedom

5.17.18 Former Death Row Inmate Makes Exonerated Rings

7.2.18 Kirk Bloodworth's case has lasting impact 25 years after exoneration

7.7.18 Harold Wilson, Kirk Bloodsworth and Ray Krone: We are proof that mistakes happen in death penalty cases

9.17.18 Author to discuss his book about Kirk Bloodsworth, exonerated death-row inmate

9.29.18 Eastern Shore author to present true story of wrongful conviction in Frederick on Monday

10.2.18 Author speaks on America's broken legal system

10.5.18 Junkin's novel 'Bloodsworth' called a cautionary tale

11.13.18 For death row survivors, the fight against capital punishment starts in Philly

12.14.18 Innocent man Kirk Bloodsworth on surviving the Green Mile and abolishing capital punishment

2.7.19 No evidence retention law in murder cases exists in Idaho

2.19.19 Crowd debates bill to end death penalty

3.27.19 Opinion: My wrongful conviction shows need to abolish death penalty

3.27.19 Kirk Bloodsworth, first DNA death row survivor

4.2.19 Prosecution and Public Defense

5.1.19 Sen. Muth: End Pa. death penalty

5.1.19 Opponents To PA’s Death Penalty Get A Bipartisan Boost

5.1.19 Democratic, Republican Lawmakers Team Up On Bill To Abolish Death Penalty In PA

5.1.19 Pa.’s death penalty opposition gets a bipartisan push

5.16.19 This former death row inmate now makes jewelry out of his home in the Philly suburbs for other exonerees

7.25.19 US to resume death penalty for first time since 2003 and schedules five executions

7.29.19 The death penalty is racially biased, fiscally irresponsible and very inaccurate

8.8.19 'Wrong-headed and misguided': Experts slam Donald Trump's call for death penalty for mass shootings and hate crimes

8.29.19 Sentenced to death, Ambler man now works to free wrongly convicted, abolish death penalty

9.10.19 Pennsylvania Supreme Court should strike down the death penalty

9.26.19 Here’s how wrongfully convicted Maryland prisoners were compensated in the past

10.3.19 The Arizona Justice Project draws attention to victims of wrongful convictions

10.8.19 Kirk Bloodsworth Visits Bryn Mawr

10.10.19 California must take the final step by abolishing the death penalty

10.14.19 Executed man's daughter asks court to order DNA testing in 1985 murder conviction

10.14.19 Thirteen years after death-row inmate executed, court asked to test DNA that could exonerate Tennessee man

10.14.19 Family of man executed in Millington murder argues DNA could clear his name

10.15.19 DNA testing could exonerate man 13 years after he was executed for rape, murder

1.15.20 These Men Were Convicted For Crimes They Didn’t Commit. Now They’re Pushing To Fix How The State Handles Wrongful Convictions

5.17.20 Commentary: Gov. Parson, do not execute Walter Barton

5.21.20 Kirk Bloodsworth: The Fight To End The Death Penalty

7.22.20 Wrongful Conviction

10.2.20 The Innocence Network's Livestream for Wrongful Conviction Day

10.8.20 The Fight for Freedom – A conversation with Photographer Martin Schoeller and Witness to Innocence Exonerees

1501 Cherry St.

Philadelphia, PA 19102


Tel: (267) 519-4584​

  • Grey Facebook Icon
  • Grey Twitter Icon

Designed by Tucker L Fitzgerald.  Built with