The Justice Student Association (JSA) and Joanne Normand, associate director of Justice Studies, brought the first American to ever be exonerated from death row by DNA evidence to the Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) campus in collaboration with the New Hampshire Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.
Students, faculty, and the public were invited to Walker Auditorium on Sept. 29 at 6 p.m. to watch “Bloodsworth: An Innocent Man,” a documentary about Kirk Bloodsworth, the exonerated man, followed by a question and answer session with him.
Bloodsworth spent 8 years, 10 months, and 19 days in prison after being convicted in 1984 for the murder and sexual abuse of a nine-year-old girl. Half of a cell proved that he was innocent.
“They were going to kill me. At 23 years of age, they were going to kill me,” Bloodsworth said in his documentary. Bloodsworth’s documentary recapped his journey through his arrest, his trials, his time on death row, the exoneration, and his activism for the abolishment of the death penalty once he was released.
Steve Ramos, the professor of The Death Penalty course (JUS 395), brought his class to the presentation. The story of Bloodsworth “brings up so many issues,” Ramos said. “It brings up constitutional issues, it brings up issues in the death penalty itself.”
JSA President Gerrit Alofs noted that the criminal justice system is ever-evolving and this presentation demonstrates “how far we’ve come, being able to exonerate someone that didn’t actually commit the crime.”
John-Michael Dumais, the executive director of New Hampshire Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty presented Bloodsworth. “We’re hoping people will take a new view on the testimony of Kirk Bloodsworth,” Dumais said. “It could happen to him; it could happen to anyone.”
There were 179 students plus members of the public in attendance. “It was a good turnout,” JSA Treasurer, Amanda Leahy said. Additional seats were situated in the aisles, and even then, attendees lined the back wall and filled in spaces on the floor.
“Students need to make their own independent decisions on important issues,” Ramos said. Many students on campus are new voters.
There are many ways SNHU students can have their opinions heard. “Don’t be afraid to voice an opinion if you think something is wrong. Speak out,” Alofs said.