Tuesday, June 12, 2012

"But this was our life..." Kirk Bloodsworth

Last evening we gathered at Elm Street Methodist Park to hear Kirk Bloodsworth.  The National Methodist Church has a project where it brings those who have been wrongfully convicted and freed to speak at local community gatherings - to inform people of the experience of those who are on death row and hopefully inform public opinion.  Kirk certainly informed us.

Kirk was a former Marie, a Waterman who just wanted to make a living fishing crab as he father had before him when he was wrongly identified by a neighbour who thought he looked like the guy in the composite sketch - a sketch made from an identikit by two young boys...  evidence was witheld in his case... his mother died while he was incarcerated and it was when he attended the wake - saw her for the last time, that he began to be empowered by her words "Stand up."

He stood up.  You can read the rest of his story elsewhere... but let me tell you I was so moved by his ability to put the bitterness behind him.  He told of how every year that he was incarcerated he sent a Christmas Card to the prosecutor.  On the day the prosecutor and others met him in the Burger King to tell him that another individual had be identified as the perpetrator of the crime for which he had been convicted, the prosecutor was speechless.  Kirk opened his arms to her and she walked into them, and they held each other and wept.

There are others like Kirk.  If you visit the Innocence Project website you will see that a growing number of individuals have been exonerated based on DNA testing and other methods.

Systems make mistakes.  Witnesses make mistakes.  People in the system make mistakes.  Mistakes can be corrected.  Tragically, when a state makes a mistake and then imposes the ultimate punishment - the death penalty - there is no correcting that mistake.

As Kirk shared some of the horrors from his time of incarceration he ended each story with a long pause followed by the phrase, "but this was my life..." a life that hid under a bunk and wept in the shadow of death row, a life that found the power to "stand up", a life that is now committed to abolishing the death penalty... Bless you Kirk!


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