Sunday, April 26, 2009

"The gavel came down on my life"

Kirk Bloodsworth, was amazed that so many people were willing to believe that he--an honorably discharged Marine with no prior arrests--raped and murdered a nine-year-old girl. But, he said, “The gavel came down on my life, and the courtroom broke into applause when I was given death.”

He spent nineteen years in prison before being exonerated.

Darryl Hunt faced a similar incarceration after being wrongly convicted of a rape and murder. The two men spoke recently in Utica, New York. Addressing a luncheon sponsored by the Oneida County Bar Association, Bloodsworth spoke of the need for law enforcement officials and prosecutors to conduct lineups and interrogations properly, and of the importance of high standards in evidence collection and preservation.

But Lawrence Golden, a past president of the Oneida County Bar Association and chairman of the Art of Innocence, said even that is not enough. “Until you change the mindset of jurors and make them believe that people do get mistakenly convicted … until the public becomes aware of these facts, regardless of changes we have in the law, wrongful convictions are going to continue.”

In the audience was Steven Barnes, who spent 19 years in prison before being exonerated late last year for a 1985 rape-murder. Barnes, who plans to begin speaking about his case as well, said, “I want people to hear my story. There are a lot more innocent people in prison than anyone realizes.”

You can read the Utica Observer-Dispatch coverage of Bloodsworth and Hunt's comments online.

Darryl Hunt's story is also the subject of a new documentary. Here's a trailer for The Trials of Darryl Hunt:

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