Cape Gazette
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Death row survivors to visit Delaware

Groups join forces to call for repeal of Delaware's death penalty
By Chris Flood | Feb 21, 2014
Photo by: Sarah Paoletti Kirk Bloodsworth, Witness to Innocence advocacy director,  addresses the Senate Executive Committee last March in support of Senate Bill 19, which would repeal Delaware's death penalty.

Dover — Kirk Bloodsworth spent nine years in jail, two of them on death row.

Bloodsworth was convicted in 1985 of sexual assault, rape, and first-degree premeditated murder for the 1984 rape and murder of a 9-year-old girl in Rosedale, Md.

In 1992, DNA testing proved his innocence. Bloodsworth became the first person in the United States to be exonerated from death row because of DNA testing, and he remains the only person exonerated from death row in Maryland.

Maryland has since repealed the death penalty. Today, Bloodsworth crisscrosses the country trying to convince people in other states the death penalty should be abolished.

“If you really want to hold somebody accountable, keep them in prison the rest of their life,” he said. “You can't hold them accountable after they die. Their pain is over. Their suffering is over.”

Some Delaware lawmakers attempted to end the death penalty last year when the state Senate voted 11-10 to pass Senate Bill 19, abolishing capital punishment.

The measure has remained tabled in the House Judiciary Committee ever since; Delaware is one of 33 states that impose capital punishment, and 18 men remain on Delaware's death row.

Bloodsworth understands this is a hot-button issue and that ending capital punishment will take time.

"This is just the way legislation works. Policy and bureaucracy grind along slowly," he said.

Bloodsworth will be in Delaware Thursday, Feb. 20, representing Witness to Innocence, the nation's only organization composed of, by, and for exonerated death row survivors and their loved ones working to repeal the death penalty in the United States. He's the group's advocacy director.

Bloodsworth will be joined by other members of the program and members of the Delaware Repeal Project, a coalition of 28 local, state and national organizations working to repeal Delaware's death penalty.

The groups are on a statewide campaign to urge the repeal of capital punishment and will continue their events through Sunday, Feb. 23.

On Friday, Feb. 21, there will be a reception at The Delaware Theatre Company, 200 Water St. in Wilmington, at 6 p.m. Following the reception there will be a showing of "The Exonerated" at 8 p.m., after which the members of Witness to Innocence will be recognized.

The two groups will be joined by representatives from the Delaware Citizens Opposed to the Death Penalty, Amnesty International, Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation and The Delaware Center for Justice.

At 10 a.m., Saturday, Feb. 22, there will be a press conference calling on the Delaware House to vote on SB19, to be held at the Limestone Presbyterian Church, 3201 Limestone Road in Wilmington.

On Sunday, Feb. 23, Bloodsworth will speak at Wesley United Methodist Church, 209 S. State St. in Dover, following the 9:45 a.m. service.

To learn more on the statewide coalition visit www.derepeal.org.

To learn more on Bloodsworth's group go to www.witnesstoinnocence.org.

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