The True Story of the First Death Row Inmate Exonerated by DNA
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A disturbing account of one man’s shattering experience of being wrongly convicted of raping and murdering a young girl.

Lawyer/novelist Junkin (Good Counsel, 2001, etc.) opens his story by introducing Bob Morin, the lawyer who took on the case of Kirk Bloodsworth and succeeded in freeing him after Bloodsworth had spent nearly a decade in prison, some of it on death row. Morin located a lab in 1993 that could perform the sophisticated tests demonstrating that DNA from the sperm sample found on the victim’s clothing did not match Bloodsworth’s. The story then shifts back to 1984 and the murder of nine-year-old Dawn Hamilton and the subsequent arrest of Bloodsworth. Even though the outcome is known from the start, Junkin spins an absorbing tale that is partly police procedural, partly courtroom drama, and chock-full of human interest. Drawing on court transcripts, newspaper reports, and interviews with many of those involved, he shows how the eagerness of the police to make an arrest and their subsequent lax attention to correct procedures, especially involving witness identification, led to Bloodsworth’s indictment, and he captures the personalities of those involved and the details of the strategy and tactics of both prosecution and defense in the trial. Bloodsworth was convicted and sentenced to death, with execution stayed pending an automatic appeal. When Bloodsworth was retried in 1987, he was again found guilty, but this time a different judge sentenced him to two consecutive life terms. What is most difficult to read is Junkin’s vivid depiction of Bloodsworth’s time in prison. For a time, his despair led him to drugs, but he overcame his addiction and never stopped proclaiming his innocence, reading everything in the prison library that might help him prove it. When Joseph Wambaugh’s The Blooding alerted him to the possibility of DNA testing, he contacted Morin, who began the long process that eventually led to his freedom. Bloodsworth is now a vocal advocate of prison reform and opponent of capital punishment.

A cautionary tale that grabs the attention and holds it.

Pub Date: Sept. 10th, 2004
ISBN: 1-56512-419-7
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Algonquin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 2004


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