Friday, 11 December 2009

James Bain's mother, 77 years old Sarah Reed, speaks to the media at an afternoon press conference.

DNA evidence could free man in prison for 35 years

Staff photo by JENNIFER LEIGH

James Bain's mother, 77 years old Sarah Reed, speaks to the media at an afternoon press conference.

By RAY REYES The Tampa Tribune
Published: December 10, 2009

DDC report

Defense serologist deposition
Defense serology report
DNA test order
FBI serologist deposition
FBI serology report
Jury trial progress report
Preliminary hearing transcript
Supplemented motion for DNA test

James Bain
He was sentenced to life in prison in the rape of a Lake Wales boy, but James Bain always said he was innocent.

Now, 35 years later, new DNA evidence backs up the inmate's claim.

The results show that Bain's DNA does not match any samples on the victim's underwear, according to a report released Wednesday by the Ohio-based DNA Diagnostics Center.

"I always knew I was innocent," Bain, now 54, said in a news release. "I've been waiting well over half my life for this miracle. I hope to be back with my family real soon."

Attorneys for Bain, and the Innocence Project of Florida which took on the case, say they are working to free Bain from the Okeechobee Correctional Institution and reunite him with his family by Christmas.

A motion for a post-conviction release will be filed within the next couple of days, Bain's attorney, Bob Young, said.

The Innocence Project screens and investigates cases with strong evidence – typically biological evidence – that a person has been wrongly imprisoned, executive director Seth Miller said.

Bain was 19 years old when he was convicted of rape, kidnapping and breaking and entering.

"Thirty-five years of his life is gone and we'll never get that back," his sister, Jacqueline Bain, said at a news conference in Bartow this afternoon. "But we're here for him. He's going to be alright."

Polk County State Attorney's Office spokesman Chip Thullbery said his agency has received the DNA test results and is reviewing the facts of the case.

"We simply want to do the right thing," Thullbery said. "We're not going to rush to judgment."

Prosecutors may ask a different lab to run another test, he said.

Court records show that the victim, then 9, remembers falling asleep on a bed with his siblings on the night of March 4, 1974. The boy said he didn't recall being taken out of his mother's Lake Wales home but awoke to see a man dragging him by the arm.

The man took him past a baseball diamond and stopped on a dirt road, the boy said. The man slapped him, forced him to the ground and raped him.

The man ran off and the boy wandered back to his house wearing only a T-shirt and jockey underwear.

The boy said his attacker had bushy sideburns and a mustache. The victim's uncle, a former assistant principal, said the description sounded like Bain, whom the uncle knew when Bain was a student at the local high school, court records show.

Detectives showed the boy photographs of possible suspects, including Bain. Detectives did not ask the victim to identify the attacker and instead asked him if "I can pick out Jimmy Bain," the boy said in his deposition.

Court records show that police denied asking that question and said they simply showed the victim five photographs and that the boy pointed to Bain's.

Police went to Bain's home that night and arrested him. His sister Jannie Bain testified that she and her brother were watching television during the time the boy was raped.

At the trial, the jury heard conflicting testimony about blood samples taken into evidence and rejected Bain's alibi in favor of the boy's eyewitness identification, Young said.

Bain has filed motions for DNA testing since 2001 but was denied each time. The Polk state attorney's office agreed to the testing in October.

The key piece of evidence—the boy's underwear—had been stored for more than three decades at the Polk County Clerk of the Circuit Court yet the DNA samples had not degraded, Young said.

Since 2003, the Innocence Project has helped exonerate 245 inmates nationwide through DNA evidence. Out of that number, Bain has served his sentence the longest, Miller said.

Reporter Ray Reyes can be reached at (813) 259-7920 (813) 259-7920.


jersey_emt said...

It is so horrible that an innocent man has been behind bars for 35 years, convicted of a crime he did not commit.

His release will be the best Christmas present he and his family has ever had.

It truly scares me that so many people have been wrongly convicted and sentenced. Has the justice system ever executed an innocent person? The mere possibility of this is the main reason why I believe that capital punishment should be abolished in our country.

Anonymous said...

Yes it is horrible....but technology is what cleared this person. If DNA testing didn't exist he'd still be in jail. Focusing on Hind-site never works!!!

Anonymous said...

I want to cry! This man spent 35 years in a horrific environment. Who knows what happened to him there. He was a young man; he comes home aged and a victim of an injustice by what is called the JUSTICE SYSTEM. How many more innocent people are in prison? It scares me to think our "justice system" is an injustice system - one where anyone could be a victim of such. Whatever retribution Bain gets --- I sincerely hope it will be tax exempt. He deserves every penny!