By Community Affairs reporter Cherri Gregg
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – A coalition of civil rights groups kicked off a new campaign at a rally Saturday at the First United Church of Germantown.
It was 1985 when former Marine Kirk Bloodsworth was convicted and sentenced to death for the brutal rape and murder of a nine-year-old girl in Baltimore County, Maryland.
“I was picked out of a line-up based on witness identification based on a person last seen with her- as 6’5 curly blonde hair,” he says, noting he was a redhead, had a missing tooth in the front and doesn’t even top-six feet.
After eight years, ten months and 19 days in prison and two years on death row, Bloodsworth became the first person in the U.S. to be exonerated by DNA evidence. He was set free in 1993.
“Wrongful convictions happen,” he says. “We have 142 people who were wrongfully convicted, sentenced to death and then set free.”
“We’re all calling on DA Seth Williams to issue a moratorium on death penalty prosecutions in this city,” says David Love, executive director of Witness to Innocence.
Love says the city should stop seeking the death penalty in prosecutions until its effectiveness can be studied. But that is just step one. Love adds the coalition wants the death penalty repealed in Pennsylvania.
“Other states are going in the direction of repeal,” says Love. “Maryland just repealed a few days ago, New Jersey has repealed, the Delaware [Senate has] voted to repeal. It’s time for Pennsylvania to do the same.”
The ACLU, Catholic Peace Fellowship and Mishkan Shalon are just a few of the groups who are a part of the Coalition to Stop Death Penalty Prosecutions in Philadelphia.
For more info, go to www.witnesstoinnocence.org
Philadelphia DA Office spokesperson Tasha Jamerson declined to comment, saying only that “capital punishment is the law in Pennsylvania.”