ANNAPOLIS — The state of Maryland has agreed to pay the first death row inmate exonerated post-conviction by DNA an additional $83,000 for his wrongful conviction.
The award highlights the state’s ongoing reckoning with those who have been wrongfully convicted. It also reflects the damage done to individuals whose lives were upended by what Comptroller Peter Franchot called “an unconscionable broken system.”
Kirk Bloodsworth, wrongfully convicted of the rape and murder of Dawn Hamilton, a 9-year old Baltimore County girl, will receive more than $83,000 in additional restitution. The Board of Public Works Wednesday unanimously approved the payment — the third to go to the anti-death penalty advocate.
“I just want a nice place to go to, and I want something to put in the bank or put somewhere for a retirement savings account,” said Bloodsworth.
Bloodsworth, 61 and recovering from treatment for a liver tumor, is arguably one of the key figures in the successful 2013 effort to end the death penalty in Maryland.
In 1985, Bloodsworth, a former Marine, was convicted of killing Hamilton the previous year in a Rosedale park.
“I was accused of one of the most brutal crimes that ever happened based on the eyewitness of a man that they described as 6-foot-5 (inches), curly blond hair, bushy mustache, tan skin and skinny. I don’t believe that fits my skinny part no matter what you say.”
There was no physical evidence linking him to the crime.
“I love the state of Maryland, but in my case from 1984 to 1993 it wasn’t the land of pleasant living,” said Bloodsworth, who teared up at one point. “It was bad shape.”
DNA tested years after the murder later confirmed Bloodsworth was not guilty.
The latest payment is part of a recent state law that provides for additional compensation for Bloodsworth and others wrongfully convicted.
In recent years the state has struggled with how to compensate those individuals.
The duty often fell to the Board of Public Works. The issue came to a head in 2019.
Five men who spent a total of 120 years in prison were awarded $9 million by a state panel. But the Board of Public Works delayed acting on the applications for almost two years. Gov. Larry Hogan said at the time that there was no process for the board to determine the payments. The state ultimately did pay the men in October of 2019.
But Hogan’s criticism of the process led to the passage of the Walter Lomax Act, named after another exoneree.
The law ties the compensation to the five-year average of the state’s median income. It also provides for reimbursement of legal fees. The state is required to pay for housing assistance, college or vocational training and medical care for five years. The state can also waive fees for driver’s licenses and other documents.
A provision in the bill allows those who received previous awards to seek additional compensation based on the new formula.
The new formula and the award to Bloodsworth is likely the forerunner of payments to others who have previously been compensated.
In 1994, the Board of Public Works awarded Bloodsworth $300,000 restitution for his wrongful incarceration.
Based on the formula in the new state law, Bloodsworth would have been eligible for more than $721,000 compensation for his nine years of incarceration.
Last October, the board approved an award for the difference. It was the first such payment made under the new law.
Wednesday’s grant of more than $83,000 for Bloodsworth was calculated by an administrative law judge under provisions governing housing and other benefits. Bloodsworth’s attorneys will also receive more than $7,000 in legal fees.
“We figured $83,000 is going to make a nice down payment for a house no matter if I live on the moon,” said Bloodsworth.