Monday, 14 December 2009

‘I’ve been waiting ... for this miracle’

‘I’ve been waiting ... for this miracle’

Staff Writer

(Photo by Tom Staik) James Bain’s father, Kenneth Bain Sr., reads a published account of his son’s possible exoneration.

Staff Writer
Saturday, December 12, 2009 10:07 AM EST

A computer must have seemed the work of science fiction to James Bain in 1974. Thirty-five years later it is a computer that may have given him back his life. Bain, 19 when he was imprisoned for the 1974 rape of a 9-year-old Lake Wales boy, has proclaimed his innocence ever since the conviction.

Modern science, it appears, agrees. Of the 245 people in the U.S. who have been exonerated by DNA testing, none has spent more time behind bars than James Bain.

A DNA test, ordered by Circuit Court Judge James A. Yancey in October of this year, has exonerated Bain in the rape, representatives of the Innocence Project of Florida announced Thursday afternoon on the steps of the Polk County Courthouse in Bartow. Attorneys for the Innocence Project said they plan to file a motion soon to throw out Bain's conviction and get him released. They called on prosecutors to drop the case quickly so Bain can be home for Christmas.

State attorney's office spokesman Chip Thullbery said prosecutors are reviewing the new evidence. He said he didn't know when a decision would be made about the next step.

"Our plans are to do the right thing, and we have to determine what that is," Thullbery said. "We will certainly try to do that as expeditiously as possible."

Bain, the advocacy group says, knew he would be exonerated.

"I always knew I was innocent," the advocacy group quoted Bain as saying when he was informed of the DNA results. "I've been waiting well over half my life for this miracle. I hope to be back with my family real soon."

Bain’s father is happy, too.

“I’m glad he’s getting out,” said his father Kenneth Bain Sr., 81, from his home on West Northside Drive in Lake Wales on Friday. “I thank the Lord for that. After 35 years it really was good news ... It’s a very long time to be locked up.”

“All the best of his life is gone. He don’t know what it is out here now. He never seen a computer,” he added.

Bain was convicted of taking a 9-year-old boy from bed – leaving the boy’s also sleeping brother and sister behind – and raping him in a field near his Lake Wales home on March 4, 1974. The boy woke and was raped after being ordered to take off his pants. He returned home wearing underwear, secured by law enforcement at the time, that contained semen.

The victim described his attacker as a young man between 17 or 18 with a mustache, beard, and sideburns.

According to Seth Miller, executive director of the Innocence Project, the victim’s uncle, an assistant principal at Lake Wales High School, led the boy to believe the description sounded like Bain. Investigators too, Miller asserts, led the victim to identify Bain by asking him to pick out “Jimmie” Bain, not his attacker.

The Innocence Project was unsuccessful in its first four petitions to have DNA testing ordered on the semen in the victim’s underwear.

According to the advocacy group, witness misidentification and faulty forensics are two of the leading causes of wrongful convictions. Witness misidentification contributed to nearly 80 percent of the 245 wrongful convictions later overturned by DNA testing nationwide.

“Seems like it took a lot (of praying). Some people let out of prison killed three or four people walking around the streets,” Kenneth added. “Lord it’s funny. I never understood the law.”

Bain's 77-year-old mother, Sarah Reeves, attended Thursday’s press conference.

"I didn't think I was going to make this day," said Reeves, who is poor health. "And I'm praying to God to help get him out so I can still be here. He's a good son."

If Bain gets out of prison, his mother said, the family would "celebrate all night."

“We are going to have a party,” his father added. “All of the family will get together and have a shindig.”

Sister Jannie Jones – Bain’s twin and together with him the youngest of Bain brook – had always been confident that DNA testing would someday exonerate her brother.

"Thirty-five years of his life is gone," she said. "He'll never get that back. We're going to move on, and we'll be there for him."

The victim, now 45, lives in Central Florida, the St. Petersburg Times is reporting. A veteran of the Marine Corps, he has served time behind bars for several offenses. The newspaper quotes his father as saying he is “very upset” by the development.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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