Working in DC, I've met really interesting and even famous people. Today, I sat by a man who had been on death row. He is also the first man to be released from death row and exonerated thanks to DNA evidence.
That man, Kirk Bloodsworth, came in today to talk to about 15 interns from my organization and some other public interest organizations. A former marine and fisherman with no criminal record, Kirk was sentenced to death for the rape and brutal murder of a little girl even though his hair color, height, and weight didn't match eye witness accounts.
All of us listened in horror as Kirk described how he was assaulted everyday on death row by other inmates because of what they thought he did to a little girl. They would try to flood his cell with sewage from their toilets and throw a bag of batteries at him, cracking his skull.
After eight years on jail, Kirk was exonerated by DNA evidence. Though he was free, a lot of people still thought he was the killer and he received threats and harassment. It wasn't until 2003, 18 years after Kirk was convicted, did they find out that another man did it. In fact, the real killer was housed in the same jail as Kirk for another crime, even lifted weights with Kirk. (A more detailed narrative about everything can be found here.)
I think one of the most amazing things was that after everything that Kirk has been through, he's still passionately trying to fix the system. Most people would probably have no hope or want to move on in their lives. The head of the Justice Project, an organization Kirk works with now, told us that everyone has stories or hears stories. But it's what we do with those stories that matters. Another good lesson over lunch.