Now that Kirk Noble Bloodsworth has been freed from two consecutive life sentences for murder and sexual assault, will the state pay him for the nine years he spent behind bars?
Mr. Bloodsworth, who was 23 when he was arrested in August 1984 and is now 32, certainly expects some compensation, although neither he nor his attorney will name a specific dollar figure.
His attorney, Robert E. Morin, said he hopes the state will act in "good faith" and propose a package of money and support services, such as health care, counseling and education.
According to state law, before Mr. Bloodsworth can collect a penny in compensation, the governor must issue a full pardon "in which it is made known that the person so pardoned has been conclusively shown to have been convicted in error." State law also says that Mr. Bloodsworth has the burden of proving his innocence.
With the pardon, Mr. Bloodsworth could ask the state Board of Public Works for money. The law giving the board power to pay Mr. Bloodsworth is titled: "Payment to innocent person convicted, sentenced and confined in error."
Leslie Vass, a South Baltimore man who spent nearly 10 years in prison for an armed robbery he didn't commit, was the last person the state compensated for being convicted and imprisoned in error. The robbery victim said he had mistakenly identified Mr. Vass as the robber.
Mr. Vass asked for $5.2 million. The state gave him $250,000 in April 1987.
Mr. Bloodsworth's case is more complicated.
Although he, his attorney and his supporters say there's no question of his innocence, Sandra A. O'Connor, Baltimore County's top prosecutor, refuses to call him "innocent." She said Mr. Bloodsworth is merely "not guilty."
"I'm not prepared to say he's innocent," she said. "Only the people who were there know what happened."
"Fortunately," said Mr. Morin, "she's not the judge."
Gov. William Donald Schaefer will attempt to determine whether Mr. Bloodsworth is completely innocent of the rape and murder of Dawn Venice Hamilton, 9, whose body was found near Golden Ring Mall July 25, 1984.
Paige W. Boinest, press spokeswoman for the governor, said Mr. Schaefer will thoroughly review the case before making any decision about a pardon.
"This is something that would have to be reviewed very carefully," said Ms. Boinest. "First of all, the governor would like to know a lot more about the case."
She also said that before pardoning Mr. Bloodsworth, the governor would first talk with Baltimore County prosecutors. "For the governor, what the prosecutors' position is will be very important," she said.
The genetic evidence weighs strongly in Mr. Bloodsworth's favor. Genetic tests proved that semen stains found on the victim's underwear could not have come from him. From the beginning, the state's theory of the case was that whoever raped Dawn Hamilton also killed her.
Other evidence noted
Mrs. O'Connor's office, which has refused to apologize for prosecuting Mr. Bloodsworth, pointed to other evidence against him. Prosecutors say that five witnesses placed Mr. Bloodsworth at Fontana Village apartments the day of the killing.
Mr. Bloodsworth's attorneys have challenged those witness identifications from the beginning of the case. The two boys who said they saw Mr. Bloodsworth going into the woods with the victim did not initially identify Mr. Bloodsworth in a lineup. The boys, then ages 10 and 7, told police they were afraid to pick Mr. Bloodsworth.
Defense attorneys also have argued that the testimony of three other witnesses who said they saw Mr. Bloodsworth near the murder scene was tainted because those witnesses saw Mr. Bloodsworth on television before picking him out of a lineup.
Then there are questions about the "bloody rock" and the "terrible thing."
Police and prosecutors say that Mr. Bloodsworth knew that the murder weapon was a rock before that information had been given to the public. However, they admit that during their first interview with Mr. Bloodsworth, they placed a rock and a little girl's clothing on a table for him to see.
What was 'terrible thing'?
At trial, witnesses testified that Mr. Bloodsworth had told people in his native Cambridge that he had done a "terrible thing" and that his wife might not take him back for it.
Mr. Bloodsworth has said the "terrible thing" was his failing to take his wife out to dinner, and his leaving Baltimore without telling her where he was going, or even that he was leaving.
Prosecutors had asked Mr. Bloodsworth what he planned to buy his wife for dinner. Mr. Bloodsworth answered that he planned to buy a taco salad. Prosecutors seized on the taco salad story during their closing trial arguments, saying it was a ridiculous explanation for the "terrible thing" that Mr. Bloodsworth said he had done.
"That's one thing that irritates him the most," said Mr. Morin. "The taco salad. That's a sound bite. He was supposed to take his wife out to dinner, and he left town without telling her."