Payment approved in wrongful imprisonment

June 23, 1994|By Glenn Small | Glenn Small,Sun Staff Writer Sun staff writer John W. Frece contributed to this article.

The Maryland Board of Public works yesterday approved a $300,000 payment to Kirk N. Bloodsworth, the Cambridge waterman who spent nearly nine years in prison in the 1984 rape and murder of a Rosedale girl but was released after new scientific evidence created serious doubts about his guilt.

Pardoned by Gov. William Donald Schaefer in December, Mr. Bloodsworth, 33, said he hopes the payment puts "the final chapter in the book for this case, and the whole ordeal."

"I'm ready for an ending," he said.

The Board of Public works, comprising Mr. Schaefer, Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein and Treasurer Lucille Maurer, voted for the payment yesterday as part of a "wrongful imprisonment settlement."

Mr. Bloodsworth will get the money after he signs releases covering the state of Maryland, state officials, police officers, prosecutors and others who were involved in his case -- meaning he may not sue them for damages.

However, as part of the agreement, Mr. Bloodsworth will not sign a release immunizing the Baltimore County government, which would not contribute $50,000 toward the settlement as state officials requested. That contribution would have increased the total award to $350,000.

Stanley J. Shapiro, the Baltimore County Attorney, yesterday reiterated the county's position that the county did nothing wrong in the Bloodsworth case and therefore shouldn't pay.

Mr. Shapiro also said that with individual police officers and prosecutors released from liability, it's unlikely Mr. Bloodsworth could sue the county as an entity and win.

Robert Morin, the Washington criminal defense lawyer who worked to free Mr. Bloodsworth from prison, said yesterday he doesn't think his client will try to collect from the county.

"Kirk just wants to get this behind him," Mr. Morin said.

Mr. Bloodsworth was 23, an ex-Marine with no criminal record, when he was arrested Aug. 9, 1984, and charged with the rape and murder of Dawn Hamilton, 9, of Rosedale.

Police charged Mr. Bloodsworth because he looked like a composite sketch of a suspect two boys saw with the victim shortly before she was killed. One of the boys and several other witnesses later identified Mr. Bloodsworth as the man seen in the area the day of the slaying, but their testimony was questioned by his lawyers.

At his 1985 trial, a jury believed the prosecution witnesses instead of several of Mr. Bloodsworth's friends, who testified that he was at home when the slaying occurred.

Convicted of rape and murder, he was sentenced to death. He won a new trial but was convicted again in 1987. The second conviction brought a life sentence.

Last year, Mr. Morin won permission to have some of the original evidence re-examined, using a DNA test that wasn't available in 1984. The new test detected semen on the victim's underpants where earlier tests had found none, and it showed that semen could not have been Mr. Bloodsworth's.

After Baltimore County prosecutors had the results confirmed by the FBI, they agreed to Mr. Bloodsworth's release from prison last June and dropped the charges against him.

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