Once again, all eyes were on him, the innocent man nearly put to death, a face of Gov. Martin O’Malley’s quest to repeal capital punishment.
Several forces have converged this year to put Maryland on the cusp of becoming the sixth state in as many years to abolish capital punishment — including a strong push by O’Malley (D), the Catholic Church and the NAACP.
But with the House scheduled to take a final vote on the bill Friday, no one is likely to feel a greater sense of personal vindication than Bloodsworth. And certainly no one is getting more attention.
During the four days of emotional debate leading up to last week’s passage in the Senate, Bloodsworth’s name was invoked so often as he sat in the gallery that an exasperated repeal opponent, Senate Minority Leader E.J. Pipkin (R-Cecil), accused the other side of mentioning him 53 times. (It was far less.)
Being the public face of the flaws of the criminal justice system is a role Bloodsworth has grown into. He was the subject of a book about his ordeal and has been profiled numerous times.
Bloodsworth, a burly, plain-spoken former Marine who grew up on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, has been followed around Annapolis in recent days by a cameraman for a documentary film. The working title is “Bloodsworth: An Innocent Man.”
He has been featured in recent weeks in the New York Times and on National Public Radio. He even made an appearance on “The Colbert Report” on Comedy Central, playing the straight man in a satirical interview, which ventured into the problems with identifications made by eyewitnesses.
“In my case, they said the person was 6-foot-5, curly blond hair, bushy mustache, tan skin and skinny,” Bloodsworth, wearing a tie depicting DNA, told host Stephen Colbert. “When they finally caught the real perpetrator of the crime some years later, he was 5-foot-6 and 160 pounds.”
“No way he just lost weight and height?” Colbert asked, later generating laughs when he asked whether abolishing the death penalty would make Maryland attractive for someone looking to go on “a kill spree.”
Bloodsworth, 52, said he has not sought the attention and that his life would have been “much different and probably much better” if he had never been wrongfully convicted in 1985 of raping and murdering a 9-year-old girl.
“It will be very sweet to get rid of the thing that almost got rid of me,” he said. “I think we’re going to be a lot better state without the death penalty than with it.”
As he listened to the back-and-forth in the Senate last week, Bloodsworth said he was reminded of the closing days of his trial 28 years earlier. Prosecutors in Baltimore County called him a monster.