James Bain spent more time in prison than any of the 245 inmates previously exonerated by DNA evidence nationwide.
But today, Bain, 54, is a free man after 35 years behind bars on a wrongful conviction. According to CNN, DNA evidence showed that Bain did not kidnap and rape a 9-year-old boy in 1974.
Bain was set free after his fifth request to use DNA evidence. Previously, he submitted handwritten motions four times seeking such testing, but was denied each time.
In 2001, Florida passed a statute allowing cases to be reopened for DNA testing.
Lawyers from the Florida Innocence Project also helped Bain win freedom. A national and public policy organization, the project works to exonerate prisoners with wrongful conviction cases through DNA testing and reforming the criminal justice system to prevent further injustice.
Bain was sentenced at 19 and 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.
In 1974 in Lake Wales, a 9-year-old boy was lifted out of his bed while sleeping. He was taken by a man he described as "17 or 18 . . . with bushy sideburns who said his name was Jim" to a nearby baseball diamond where he was raped.
The boy picked Bain out of a photo lineup, although there are lingering questions about whether detectives steered him.
Last year, Florida passed a law that automatically grants former inmates found innocent $50,000 for each year they spent in prison. No legislative approval is needed. That means after being incarcerated for 35 years on a wrongful conviction, Bain is entitled to $1.75 million.
- Innocence Project
- Fla. man exonerated after 35 years behind bars (Associated Press)
- DNA evidence frees James Bain from prison after 35 years (St. Petersburg Times)