- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 4, 2015

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Death penalty opponents looking to win over Kentucky lawmakers turned Wednesday to a former death row inmate freed by DNA evidence to promote legislation aimed at abolishing capital punishment.

Kirk Bloodsworth, during a visit to the Kentucky Capitol, denounced the death penalty as “one of the greatest social injustices of our time” due to the potential that innocent people will be put to death.

Bloodsworth spent two years on death row after his conviction in Maryland in the murder of a 9-year-old girl outside Baltimore. He was later exonerated because of DNA evidence.

He professed his innocence from the time of his arrest but still spent years in prison, he said.

“In the end, two juries were wrong, the police were wrong, the state was wrong,” he said at a press conference. “Everybody in the case of Kirk Bloodsworth vs. the state was dead wrong.”

Bills introduced by Democratic Sen. Gerald Neal and Republican Rep. David Floyd would abolish the death penalty in Kentucky and replace it with life in prison without parole for inmates now sentenced to death. The bills would allow life without parole for offenses now classified as capital offenses.

Bloodsworth said sentencing someone to a tiny prison cell for the rest of their life is a better punishment.

“Life without parole … is one of the worst punishments you can possibly get,” he said. “It is no cakewalk. You have to sit in a cell that you can take three steps from the back wall to the cell door.”

Kentucky has executed three people since 1976, when the U.S. Supreme Court allowed states to resume using the death penalty. Kentucky currently has 33 inmates who have been sentenced to death, state corrections officials said.

Death penalty opponents pointed to cost factors as another reason to abolish capital punishment. They said the state has spent tens of millions of dollars on capital cases at the trial court and appeals court levels.

“The death penalty is beneath our society,” Neal said. “We can do better than that.”

Neal and Floyd didn’t handicap the chances of their bills in the 30-working-day session that ends next month, but they said more of their colleagues are showing a willingness to consider the issue.

Floyd said lawmakers can justify to their constituents taking a stance against the death penalty.

“There is nothing to fear in a principled position that is opposed to the death penalty,” Floyd said.

The two lawmakers also have filed resolutions that would establish a task force to study the costs of administering the death penalty in Kentucky.

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The legislation is Senate Bill 15 and House Bill 82.

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