Innocent man spends decades in jail

Freedom at last

Innocent man spends decades in jail

James Bain (right) walks down the Polk County Courthouse steps with Melissa Mantle of the Innocence Project in Bartow, Florida, on Thursday. APDecades later, with DNA technology able to exonerate him, James Bain was finally set free on Thursday and used a cell phone for the first time. He called his mother to tell her he was out after 35 years behind bars for a crime he did not commit.

As Bain walked out of the Polk County courthouse, wearing a black T-shirt that said “not guilty”, he spoke of his deep faith and said he does not harbour any anger.
“No, I am not angry,” he said. “Because I’ve got God.”

His wants are simple: fried chicken, Dr Pepper and maybe going back to school.
The Innocence Project of Florida says the 54-year-old has spent longer behind bars than any of the other 245 inmates exonerated by DNA nationwide.

In 1974, Bain was sentenced to life in prison for the kidnapping and raping a boy in a field.

“Nothing can replace the years Jamie has lost,” said Seth Miller, a lawyer for the Innocence Project, which helped Bain win freedom. “Today is a day of renewal.”
Friends and family surrounded Bain as he left the courthouse after Judge James Yancey ordered him freed. His 77-year-old mother, who is in poor health, preferred to wait for him at home. With a broad smile, he said he looks forward to spending time with her and the rest of his family.

Earlier, the courtroom erupted in applause after Yancey ruled.“Bain, I’m now signing the order,” Yancey said. “You’re a free man. Congratulations.”
Attorneys from the Innocence Project of Florida got involved in Bain’s case earlier this year after he had filed several previous petitions asking for DNA testing, all of which were thrown out.

A judge finally ordered the tests and the results from a respected private lab in Cincinnati came in last week, setting the wheels in motion for Thursday’s hearing.
Bain was convicted largely on the strength of the victim’s eyewitness identification, though testing available at the time did not definitively link him to the crime. The boy said his attacker had bushy sideburns and a mustache. The boy’s uncle, a former assistant principal at a high school, said it sounded like Bain, a former student. The boy picked Bain out of a photo lineup, although there are lingering questions about whether detectives steered him.

The jury rejected Bain’s story that he was at home watching TV. He was 19 when he was sentenced. Ed Threadgill, who prosecuted the case originally, said he didn’t recall all the specifics, but the conviction seemed right at the time.

Eric Ferrero, spokesman for the Innocence Project, said a DNA profile can be extracted from decades-old evidence if it has been preserved properly. That means sealed in a bag and stored in a climate-controlled place, which is how most evidence is handled as a matter of routine.

 Florida last year passed a law that automatically grants former inmates found innocent $50,000 for each year they spent in prison. That means Bain is entitled to $1.75 million.

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