Friday, 11 December 2009

Innocence Project says test result should free James Bain from prison after 35 years.

Group: DNA Clears Lake Wales Man of 1974 Rape
Innocence Project says test result should free James Bain from prison after 35 years.


Sarah Reed talks with reporters about the results of DNA testing that exonerates her son James Bain age 54 convicted in 1974 of taking a 9-year old boy from his bed and raping him in a field near his Lake Wales Fl. home. Attorneys from the Florida Innocence Project of Florida Inc and Bain's family held a press conference outside the Polk County Courthouse in Bartow Fl.

By Shoshana Walter

Published: Thursday, December 10, 2009 at 10:58 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, December 10, 2009 at 10:58 p.m.

BARTOW New DNA test results may soon free a Lake Wales man, 35 years after he went to prison on charges he kidnapped and raped a 9-year-old boy.

James Bain, 54, was just 19 years old when he was convicted in 1974. He's always maintained his innocence, and now the Innocence Project of Florida, a nonprofit organization that helped represent Bain and funded the DNA testing, says the results prove it.

The State Attorney's Office is reviewing the results and has sent the report, released Thursday, to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for review. Spokesman Chip Thullbery said prosecutors would decide next week whether the DNA, which came from a semen sample found on the boy's underwear, requires further testing. If not, they'd begin filing motions to set Bain free.

On Thursday, Bain's family and friends gathered outside the courthouse in Bartow, surrounded by lawyers, news reporters and passersby touched by the news.

"Everybody ready to go?" asked Seth Miller, executive director of the Innocence Project, before the cameras began to roll. "Wait, you've been ready for 35 years, right?"

Since May 2001, Bain had asked the courts four times to test the DNA. With help from the Florida Innocence Project, he filed his fifth and final request in July. Circuit Judge James A. Yancey granted the motion in October, without objection from the State Attorney's Office, and allowed the test.

"We hope the State Attorney's Office will work with us to overturn the conviction, dismiss the charges and release Mr. Bain, hopefully by Christmas," Miller said.

On March 4, 1974, the 9-year-old victim was sleeping between his sister and brother when a man silently stole through his bedroom window and took him to a nearby baseball field.

According to court records, the boy awoke and his abductor - whom he later described as a young man of 17 or 18 with a mustache, beard and sideburns - ordered him to take off his pants and raped him. The young man ran away, and the boy returned home, wearing a white T-shirt and underwear, which contained semen.

The boy told authorities James Bain was the perpetrator. But Miller says the identification was a mistake. In the boy's mind, Bain had become the attacker. The boy's uncle, an assistant principal at Bain's school, told the boy his description sounded like Bain. And when authorities showed him photos of several young men, the boy said he was asked to pick out not his attacker but "Jimmie" Bain.

Miller asserts there were other problems with the case. During the trial, because DNA testing was not available, prosecutor Edward Threadgill used a comparison of blood types to implicate Bain in the evidence. But a witness called by the defense said the types did not match.

There was also Bain's alibi. Authorities found him at home, where he said he'd been watching television with his twin sister.

Jannie Jones recalled that night.

They'd been watching the family's color television - Bain's Christmas gift to his mother - when police knocked on their door.

They told the twins they wanted to take Bain to the police station to ask him some questions, so he left with police.

"I didn't even wake Mom. I just waited and waited," Jones recalled Thursday. When he still hadn't returned hours later, she went into her mother's bedroom.

"I woke my mom and told her what happened - that they brought him downtown and never brought him home," she said, crying.

Bain was convicted in the courtroom of judge Oliver Greene in 1974. He is held at Okeechobee Correctional Institution, where he meets with Innocence Project lawyer Melissa Montle and gets frequent visits from family and friends.

Lawyers for the organization say they'll file a motion soon to have the conviction vacated and Bain released. But both Bain and his lawyers say they expect complications.

Thullbery said prosecutors are working as quickly as possible.

"This was a very serious crime. Our role is to make sure that the public is protected and that the defendant's rights are protected," he said. "If in fact Mr. Bain is innocent, we don't want to have him spend any more time in prison."

The victim, now 45, lives in Central Florida but could not be reached for comment. The victim's father told the St. Petersburg Times that his son "is very upset by the news."

The victim served in the Marine Corps for five years in his 20s, but later fell apart, and told his father he "couldn't shake the rape." According to Florida Department of Corrections records, the victim has spent time behind bars for various offenses, including cocaine possession and grand theft.

"We don't know what to think, and we have nothing more to say. This whole thing is a tragedy all the way around," the father said.

Bain's family members say they are sad about the time lost but look forward to seeing him free.

"I didn't think I was going to see this day," said Bain's mother, Sarah Reeves, who was recently released from the hospital. The 77-year-old spoke from her wheelchair. "We're not gonna let him out of our sight."

[ Shoshana Walter can be reached at or . ]

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