Kirk Bloodsworth will speak at 5 p.m. in the Great Hall. The lecture, co-sponsored by the Arizona Justice Project, which is housed at the College of Law, is free and open to the public.
This is Bloodsworth's first visit to Arizona, which is among the first states to be conducting a systematic and exhaustive search of inmates whose convictions could be overturned through DNA testing. The project is funded through the Bloodworth Program, which aims to find wrongful convictions and free innocent people.
Bloodsworth, of Cambridge, Md., served nearly nine years in prison, two of them on death row, before being released in 1993 after DNA tests conclusively proved he did not rape and murder a young girl. He has since become active in criminal justice reform, telling his story around the country and working for passage of the 2004 Innocence Protection Act, of which the Bloodsworth Program is a part.
Professor Zig Popko, director of the College's Post-Conviction Clinic, said Bloodsworth's visit allows students, faculty, staff and the community to learn about the real challenges facing our criminal justice system.
"Many people doubt that wrongful convictions happen in America because everybody gets a lawyer, the prosecution must disclose favorable evidence to the accused, the jury must find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, and there are seemingly endless appeals," Popko said. "Yet, the 252 DNA-based exonerations of wrongfully convicted individuals (in the U.S.) prove otherwise.
"We should not be allowed to have an innocent person go to prison, let alone be on death row," said Bloodsworth, noting the real killer in his case was apprehended in 2003. "I think our government has been largely indifferent to it, and I think we should be up in arms about that.
"I'm not against prosecutors putting away bad guys - I'm against them doing it under the table, hiding evidence or not making (DNA) testing available."
Bloodsworth said his message to law students, who someday will be armed with degrees that give them power and responsibility, is simple: "Stand up for what's right, and make sure you uncover what's wrong."
To read more about Bloodsworth, click here.