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Exonerated death row inmate will speak in Hays

Special to The Hays Daily News

Kirk Bloodsworth, advocacy director of Witness to Innocence and a death row exoneree, will speak on wrongful convictions and the death penalty at a public event at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Fort Hays State University's Beach/Schmidt Performing Arts Center.

Bloodsworth was accused and convicted of raping and murdering a 9-year-old girl. The evidence used to convict him was the testimony of five eyewitnesses, and he spent eight years in prison before DNA evidence proved his innocence.

Bloodsworth is one of 142 individuals in the United States to be sentenced to death and later found innocent.

While in prison, the Catholic Church provided spiritual support to Bloodsworth, who would convert to Catholicism. He also learned how DNA evidence had solved murders in Britain. In 1992, the prosecution agreed to DNA testing, which excluded Bloodsworth as the murderer. Ten years after the initial tests, investigators matched DNA from the case to the real killer.

In Kansas, DNA evidence has played a role in exonerating both Eddie Lowery and Joe Jones of rapes that they did not commit. To date, DNA evidence has led to the release of 305 individuals in the United States wrongfully convicted and incarcerated for crimes they did not commit.

While in Kansas, Bloodsworth hopes his story will highlight how anyone can suffer the injustice of a wrongful conviction.

"I was a former Marine with no criminal record, who was nowhere near the scene of the crime, but I was still convicted and sentenced to death for a crime I didn't commit," he said. "If it could happen to me, it could happen to anybody. And it does."

FHSU Catholic Disciples and FHSU Students for Life are sponsoring the event.