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Leadership Transition at Witness to Innocence

Dear Friends of Witness to Innocence,

After four years of groundbreaking leadership, Kirk Bloodsworth is retiring from his position as our Executive Director. Kirk is WTI’s first death row exoneree to serve in a staff leadership position, initially as Deputy Director and then as Executive Director. From day one, and throughout his term, he demonstrated devotion to our core value of putting the wellbeing of death row exonerees at the center of everything we do. Whether it was about budget, staffing, or abolition strategy, Kirk considered the impact on, or opportunity for, our death row exoneree members in each decision he made. As a result, we have seen a deepening sense of unity and trust among the WTI family of death row exonerees.

Through Kirk’s leadership WTI’s capacity and reach grew significantly. In these past four years we supported the campaigns which abolished the death penalty in Washington, New Hampshire, Virginia and Colorado. We were featured in National Geographic Magazine and we made two short-films with Richard Branson’s Virgin Unite. In response to the challenges brought by the COVID 19 pandemic, we pivoted quickly to facilitate online events, nearly doubling the number of speaking engagements and expanding our social media presence. This summer Kirk joined his longtime friend former Senator Russ Feingold at the American Constitution Society to accept WTI’s 2022 Progressive Champion Award.

One of the biggest changes Kirk implemented in his tenure was a new programmatic priority – advocating on behalf of individual cases of people still on death row. We fought for people with strong evidence of innocence, such as James Daily in Florida, Rodney Reed and Melissa Lucio in Texas, Julius Jones in Oklahoma, and Pervis Payne in Tennessee, and we remain relieved and grateful that in each case the executions were halted. Kirk was clear that we must also fight for those whose guilt was not in question, and we remain heartbroken and outraged at the 56 executions in AL, AZ, FL, GA, MO, OK, SD, TN, TX as well as the 13 Federal executions in these years. It is in their memory that we continue the fight for abolition.

WTI’s next chapter will be under the leadership of Herman Lindsey, who has been selected by our Board of Directors to assume the role of Executive Director! Herman was exonerated from death row in Florida in 2009. All staff positions at WTI begin with an internal search among the WTI membership of death row exonerees before being opened to a public hiring process. This is part of our commitment to supporting the leadership of death row exonerees. Herman has worked extensively within the abolition and criminal justice reform movements over the last decade. He has served on our Board of Directors, on the Board of Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, on the Advisory Committee of Equal Justice USA, and as an Ambassador for the Represent Justice campaign. You can read more about Herman here: Introducing Herman Lindsey

Herman and Kirk will overlap from October through December which happens to coincide with their birthdays, so we will be celebrating both of them at two fundraising events on zoom this fall. The first will be on October 31st, Kirk's birthday and favorite holiday. You can RSVP and/or make a gift in his honor here: Celebrate Kirk

Please join me in thanking both Kirk and Herman for their commitment to death penalty abolition, to their fellow exonerees, and to those on death row in the US and around the world.

Until one fine tomorrow,

Kwame Ajamu

Board Chair


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