Kirk Noble Bloodsworth has twice been convicted of raping and murdering a 9-year-old Baltimore County girl. Yet since his arrest in August 1984, he has steadfastly maintained his innocence.
Now he hopes a new type of genetic DNA testing -- unavailable when he was tried -- will prove him right and make him a free man.
Forensic Science Associates, a California laboratory, completed an analysis of evidence from the July 25, 1984, rape and murder of Dawn Hamilton, and concluded that semen found on the girl's panties could not have come from Bloodsworth.
"The sperm from the panties could only come from the killer," said Robert E. Morin, Bloodsworth's attorney. "And it's not Bloodsworth's. Period. . . . It's not him, and it can't be him."
But Bloodsworth will not be getting out of prison soon. Baltimore County prosecutors are having the panties and other evidence tested by another laboratory.
S. Ann Brobst, an assistant state's attorney, declined to discuss the case in detail but did acknowledge that a follow-up test is being conducted. She said she did not know how long the test would take or when the results would be available.
"We have been cooperating with the defense," she said. "We are working toward the same goal. We all want to know the truth. But we want to be prudent."
At the request of Mr. Morin and prosecutors, a Baltimore County judge ordered evidence from Bloodsworth trials -- the panties, a shirt and a stick -- sent to the California laboratory a year ago.
The lab received the material in August 1992 and finished its report last week. Whether a new test will take as long is unclear.
"We're going to move as fast as we can," Ms. Brobst said.
Mr. Morin would not speculate on how long the test would take.
The new type of DNA testing is called PCR DNA. Mr. Morin said it is more sophisticated because it requires less material-- semen or blood -- to make a valid comparison.
When FBI agents tested the panties and other evidence in 1984, using what were then the latest techniques, they were unable to find any traces of semen on the panties, Ms. Brobst said.
"We're light years away from where we were five years ago in the area of serology," she said.
The evidence that convicted Bloodsworth in two separate trials was largely circumstantial. Several witnesses positively identified him as being with the little girl, or in the area of Fontana Village near Golden Ring Mall where she was killed, several hours before the girl's body was discovered.
Bloodsworth, a former waterman from the Eastern Shore, left Baltimore about a week after the murder and returned to his native Cambridge. There, according to several witnesses and police, he talked of having done a "terrible thing."
Homicide detectives also said that when they interviewed Bloodsworth, he spoke of a bloody rock that apparently was used to kill Dawn Hamilton, a rock that only the police and the killer knew about at the time.
Bloodsworth's first murder conviction resulted in a death sentence. But the Court of Appeals overturned that conviction, ruling that police and prosecutors had withheld evidence that pointed to another suspect.
In 1987, he was convicted again and sentenced to two consecutive life terms.
Mr. Morin said his client has done little in prison except work toward proving his innocence. Bloodsworth has been in protective custody since his arrest, the lawyer said.
Bloodsworth got news of the test results several weeks ago, before the final written report was delivered.
"He's told me that the last few weeks have been rougher than the previous 8 1/2 years," Mr. Morin said.