Thursday, 17 December 2009

Another day, another exoneration

From the blog "Preaching to the choir" :

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Another day, another exoneration

Do you think that when the Florida legislature passed a statute authorizing the reopening of cases for DNA testing that they intended for courts to deny a guy's handwritten four times and dither for 8 years before finally getting around to the testing? Maybe the delay between this defendant's first motion and the eventual results only seems so outrageously long in this case because the test revealed the defendant wasn't a match.

In 1974, someone kidnapped a 9 year-old boy and raped him. Fortunately, the bad guy left the child alive. And he left behind a sample. Unfortunately, James Bain was wrongly picked out as the bad guy and languished in Florida prisons for 35 years. While they were all wrong, the last 8 seem particularly unnecessary. If a court had just treated his first motion with respect or his second or maybe even his third, he could have been released while still in his 40s (he's 54 now). But as it stands, he had to wait those extra 8 years. And now the court and the prosecutors are all working to make sure he's out in time for Christmas. Boy, then that judge and those prosecutors can feel all warm and fuzzy about doing justice. I wonder if they can totally shut out that nagging voice reminding them that by opposing and denying his earlier motions, they cost him an extra 8 Christmases behind bars.

Mr. Bain is actually lucky that he did prevail on his fifth motion. A successive motion like that could have been considered an abuse of process that should be sent straight to the circular file. Just like week, my state supreme court considered the question of when, if ever, a district court can simply ban a litigant from filing any further motions. Well, here we have evidence that sometimes defendants are persistent not because they're annoying but because they have a meritorious claim that the courts are ignoring. It's pretty hard to argue that Mr. Bain's motions were properly denied now that we know the results of the test.

I am very happy to know that James Bain will get to spend Christmas with his mother, who was beginning to worry she would die before her son ever got justice. But I wish I could have been offering him my well-wishes 8 years ago.

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