Friday, 11 December 2009

DNA finding raises questions about how rape case was handled

The Associated Press

Published: December 11, 2009

DNA may clear man
There are many questions surrounding the case of 54-year-old James Bernard Bain, the Polk County man who may be exonerated by new DNA evidence in his 1974 rape conviction.

How could an innocent 19-year-old be convicted of raping a 9-year-old boy? Why did the 9-year-old identify Bain as his attacker? Is the real rapist still out there?

The 1974 case centered around semen samples taken from the underwear of the victim. According to the Innocence Project of Florida, a group that fights to exonerate innocent prisoners, new DNA tests show those semen samples are not from James Bain.

Still, current State Attorney Jerry Hill says to put science aside for a second. The original trial didn't have the luxury of current technology and was handled appropriately.

"This case appeared to be tried, properly tried. He was well defended," Hill said.

Ed Threadgill was the original prosecutor on the case back in 1974. He's now 78 years old and living in Winter Haven. He says he doesn't recall many of the details of the 35-year-old case, but what he does remember is that the victim identified James Bain as the rapist.

What the Innocence Project and Bain's family wonders is whether investigators or one of the victim's family members planted the idea of Bain as the assailant in the victim's mind.

According to a deposition with the victim, which was taken in May 1974, one of Bain's defense lawyers asked the boy, "Do you know for sure whether or not it was Jamie Bain or did your uncle say 'It sounds like Jamie Bain'?"

The victim responds: "No. Did I say that? Because he didn't say that."

Later in the deposition the defense lawyer asks, "Did he tell you he was the one who did it?"

"No", the boy responds.

"Could you be mistaken?" asks the attorney.

"Yes, sir."

"You could be mistaken?"

"Yes, sir."

James Bain's family says he's always maintained his innocence, and now they want the system to quickly make things right.

"No sense in sitting back and standing back and saying, 'The DNA doesn't match, and I'm going to run it through another 400 times.' Thirty-five years I think is enough time," said Bain's brother-in-law, Harry Amos.

Jerry Hill says his office will not be combing through every detail of the original case. Their focus is on reviewing the new DNA evidence and determining if any more tests need to be done or if filing motions to release James Bain comes next.

"We're not in the business of trying to keep the wrong people behind bars," Hill said.

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