John Sapida, Features Editor

The rise of DNA technology has been both a blessing and a curse to the criminal justice system. In the case of Kirk Bloodsworth, DNA technology saved his life from death row.

Kirk Bloodsworth is known for being the first man exonerated by DNA technology post conviction. Bloodsworth was convicted for sexually assaulting and murdering a young girl. He was identified by a couple of eyewitnesses and was sent to prison for a crime he never committed.

“The gavel went down on my life and the sentence was death,” Bloodsworth said in his lecture.

Before he knew it, he was in a cell whose walls he could touch by stretching his arms. Through research within the prison library, which he was a librarian of, Kirk was able to find information on what was then, a new technology, DNA testing. Bloodsworth knew that this could save him. “If it can convict you, DNA can free you!” he continued.

After contacting his lawyer, the long and complicated process of re-opening Bloodsworth’s case began. Evidence pertaining to the case, the girl’s panties, were first missing, but were eventually found in a judge’s chambers. Bloodsworth’s case was processed as he wait in prison until he finally received a message from his lawyer saying, “You’re Innocent!” to which Bloodsworth replied, “I knew that!”

Bloodsworth’s appearance was courtesy of Bergen Community College’s Department of Criminal Justice and Homeland Security. Criminal Justice professor, David Hayes said, “We felt that our students, faculty, and members of the surrounding community would benefit by Kirk Bloodsworth exposing some of the failures of our criminal justice system and hearing what he had to endure as a result of those failures.”

Kirk Bloodsworth was convicted, not once, but twice under false eye-witness identification, which is considered the least reliable sources of information together with the unstable nature of eyewitness statements.

“We know that the purpose of any investigation is to discover the truth, no matter where it leads us. It is imperative that we keep an open mind and not focus on one individual, while ignoring evidence that suggests someone else.  We owe it to the victim, the victim’s family, the community, and society,” continued Hayes.

While most falsely convicted prisoners would build an angst against the police, the prosecution, or the criminal justice system, Kirk Bloodsworth is different. Bloodsworth continues to help save others who are falsely accused of crimes they never committed. Bloodsworth’s heartbreaking yet inspiring story has also highlighted some of the value of our growing technology, especially the use of DNA in the criminal justice system. While some might argue on the true motive of this new technology, it is imperative to understand that the criminal justice system is complex and adapts as we do.

Today, Bloodsworth wears a tie, adorned with a DNA strand. “This has become my signature,” he says.