After serving eight years in a Maryland prison for a murder he didn’t commit, Eastern Shore resident Kirk Bloodsworth was released and pardoned in 1993. New testing tools led Bloodsworth to become the first convicted death row inmate to be exonerated by DNA evidence.
The case set the stage for thousands of wrongfully convicted Americans to seek and achieve exonerations of their own.
The author of a book about Bloodsworth’s case and the investigation leading to his release will appear at Frederick Community College on Monday.
Tim Junkin, author of “Bloodsworth: The True Story of the First Death Row Inmate Exonerated by DNA Evidence,” will appear at 7 p.m. Oct. 1. Junkin’s book is the 2018 Maryland Humanities' selection for the One Maryland One Book program.
Junkin, who lives in Talbot County, practiced law for 30 years. He has written two other books set on the Eastern Shore. He started work on the book after reading a newspaper story about Bloodsworth’s case.
”Kirk was convicted of a rape and murder of a 9-year-old girl in Baltimore County. It was a horrible crime,” Junkin said. “The whole community was up in arms.”
Junkin’s book follows Bloodsworth’s story, but also focuses on the investigators who built the case against him.
“I try to look at this whole story from the perspective of the investigators and how these very experienced people pointed to the wrong man. They became absolutely convinced that this innocent person was guilty of horrific crimes,” Junkin said. “One of the things that happened in this story is the authorities relied on things that were not hard science, like psychological profiles and composite drawings, and intuition. When you get away from hard science and following the actual facts, and start relying on things that are squishy, you run into real trouble. In this case, it led to catastrophe.”
Although his book was published in 2004, he said, it raises important questions about the U.S. criminal justice system.
“There have been 1,500 people from death row, and thousands of felons who weren’t on death row, exonerated,” Junkin said. “We have a major catastrophe in our criminal justice system right now.”
Justice is the theme for the 2018 Maryland Humanities' One Maryland One Read program. Program director Andrea Lewis, of the Maryland Humanities, said the book was selected from hundreds of books releasing a call for public suggestions.
Although the book is older, “it feels very timely,” Lewis said. “Justice is a part of our daily conversations these days.”
Monday’s event is a partnership between the council and Frederick County Public Libraries and Frederick Community College.
“We’re just always pleased to be able to bring authors to Frederick because it’s a community that is very connected to reading and supportive of the opportunity to hear an author,” she said.
Since his release, Bloodsworth has become a prominent advocate of criminal justice reform. He was a program worker at The Justice Project and helped start the Kirk Bloodsworth Post-Conviction DNA Testing Program, which provides grant funding for post-conviction DNA evidence. He also lobbied to end Maryland’s use of the death penalty.
“He’s made an amazing, positive force out of his life,” Junkin said. “But they would have killed him if they could have.”