In 1985, Kirk Noble Bloodsworth was sentenced to die in a Maryland penitentiary for the brutal rape and murder of 9 year old Dawn Hamilton. A crime he did not commit. This dark journey began almost 9 months earlier on July 25th, 1984 when two young boys, who were fishing in a small pond behind the apartment complex where Dawn lived, witnessed her walk off into the woods with a man they described as skinny, 6 foot-five, with a bushy mustache and blonde hair. They were the last people to see her alive.

Hours later, Dawn’s body was found lying facedown in the woods by a Baltimore Police Detective. At the time of the murder Kirk did not live in the area, was neither 6 foot five, nor was he blonde with a bushy mustache. He was a 6 foot, brawny redhead with mutton-chop sideburns who had worn glasses since age five.

He had witnesses who could place him at home at the time of the murder, and there was no physical evidence that linked Kirk to the crime scene. Despite all of this, Kirk was ultimately convicted by his slim resemblance to a composite drawing based on the eyewitness testimony of the two young boys, and the eyewitness identification of 3 others, one of which identified Kirk after seeing him on the news. Arrested within 3 weeks of the murder Kirk maintained his innocence from day one assuming somehow, some way, the police would realize they had the wrong man and the nightmare would end.

Sadly it did not. In March of 1985, Kirk Bloodsworth entered the dark recesses of the Maryland State Penitentiary, alone, and branded a monster, as he began his 9-year battle to prove his innocence from the confines of a 6×9 cell.

Through truly jaw-dropping twists and turns, chronicled in this film, Kirk finally won his freedom in 1993. Thanks to what was then a new technology called “genetic fingerprinting,” Kirk Bloodsworth became the first death row inmate exonerated by DNA.

Since his exoneration in 1993, Kirk has found his voice, making it his life’s mission to foster change in the criminal justice system, especially regarding issues surrounding wrongful convictions and the death penalty. He has become a vocal opponent of the death penalty, speaking publicly to small groups and large audiences, lobbying politicians, and working with other activists to rehabilitate the penal system. The pinnacle of this work to date came in 2004 when President George W. Bush signed into law the Kirk Noble Bloodsworth Post Conviction DNA Testing Program which provides block grants to States to pay for inmate post-conviction DNA testing.

Today, Kirk continues his fight across the country, including in his home state of Maryland, where, in 2013, he played an integral part in efforts to successfully repeal the death penalty.

In the face of the growing number of executions — and exonerations — in the United States, Kirk’s story is more important to tell than ever, as it uniquely captures a perfect storm of injustice, illustrating exactly how this can happen to anyone. His story reveals some of the most devastating flaws in our criminal justice system and sheds light on the moral ramifications of state imposed death penalties; proving that it is indeed possible to convict, and execute, innocent people.