James Bain Longest-Serving Inmate Freed By DNA Evidence for Kidnapping and Molestation Crimes in 1974
Whenever I see stories like this, I wonder about all the other black, brown and red men and women who are also in jail for crimes that they did not commit. This has made international headlines. From The Independent in Britain:
The release of a Florida man who had served 35 years in prison for a rape he did not commit is setting off a fresh wave of self-examination by the legal profession in America about the dangers of faulty testimony, which can result not just in wrongful incarceration but possibly also the execution of the innocent.
James Bain, 54, was released at a court hearing in Bartow, in central Florida, on Thursday after DNA tests showed he could not have committed the rape of a nine-year-old boy for which he was imprisoned in 1974. Of the 246 inmates across the US who have been exonerated by DNA testing since it first became available, none has been in prison longer than Mr Bain. He lost two-thirds of life to the drudgery and privations of prison.
At his mother’s home in Tampa yesterday savouring his freedom as well as some of the marvels of modern living he has never had access to before, including cell phones, Mr Bain has so far refused to express bitterness over his experience. “I can’t be angry,” he said. “People had a job to do back then. It’s just sad the way the outcome was.”
James Bernard Bain was 19 when he was arrested and charged by authorities in the molestation of a nine-year-old boy, an action that even now smacks of a frame-up. One has to wonder why Bain was fingered at all.
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.
The rapist also wore pin curls in his hair held together with bobby pins. The boy first thought that his kidnapper was a woman.
And what has happened to the molestation victim who thought it was Bain who had raped him?
The nine-year-old is now 45 years old, and “is very upset by the news,” said his father, according to the St. Petersberg Times. It is unknown whether the victim was upset that Bain was let go, or that he was upset that he had pointed to the wrong man all those years before, and that the real perpetrator is still walking around.
The rape survivor served in the Marines for five years, but the emotional toll–no doubt caused by post-traumatic stress disorder from the rape–got to him, and he had to be discharged. Criminal records reveal that the rape survivor has also been incarcerated several times for crimes ranging from grand theft to cocaine possession.
At one point, in 2006, both Bain and the rape survivor were serving their sentences at the same prison. When the latter found this out, he sought and received a transfer.
[…]”Once, on the way to rehab, he told me he couldn’t shake the rape,” said the father.
“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.
Well, somebody did this, and the uncle, if still alive, seems to have helped in the perpetration of a lie that sent an innocent man to prison. Perhaps the uncle, an assistant principal at the high school Bain attended, held a grudge against the young man, and so made his nephew finger him. And the real perpetrator could have been a favorite student that the uncle was trying to protect. The assailant, years later, may be still walking free somewhere, abusing little boys yet. They’ve got to get to the bottom to who was really responsible.
James Bain, meanwhile, is savoring freedom, as well as he should. This is quite a Christmas present for his family and friends. He looks forward to drinking Dr. Pepper, eating fried turkey, and going back to school and earning his high school and then a college degree. And because Bain was unjustly accused and incarcerated for a crime that he did not commit, he should look forward to a hefty payday.
Florida passed a law last year that automatically grants former inmates found innocent $50,000 for each year they spent in prison. No legislative approval is needed.
That means Bain is entitled to $1.75 million.
Attorneys for The Innocence Project of Florida, which helped exonerate the Lake Wales native through DNA testing, will discuss with Bain after the holidays the process for getting compensated, Seth Miller, the executive director of the Tallahassee-based nonprofit, said.
Under the law, Bain must petition the court in the judicial circuit where he was tried and convicted, Miller said. So Bain will file paperwork at the Polk County Courthouse in Bartow, the same place where a judge freed him on Thursday.
The court will then determine if Bain, who spent more time in prison than any other inmate exonerated through DNA evidence, is eligible for his payday.
Miller is confident his client will get what’s owed to him.
“He can be compensated in four to six months,” Miller said.
Let’s hope that if he does get that money, that Bain spends it wisely. This is not money to play with. However, in a recent report released by the Innocence Project, many states are foot-dragging in compensating these exonerated men. It’s not quite a happy-ever-after, only the promise of one:
A report released this week by the Innocence Project shows that of the more than 240 people exonerated through DNA testing nationwide, 40% have not received any form of assistance after their release.
Among those who have been compensated under state laws, the vast majority received very small amounts of money and no social services, the report finds. While exonerees are stripped of their property, jobs, freedom and reputation, only 10 states include provisions for services within their compensation laws.
The report comes as a staggering 23 states in the nation do not offer any compensation to the exonerated. Exonerated people who live in one of the 27 states that have a compensation law may file for state compensation, but the average length of time exonerees wait to receive funds is almost three full years. In the meantime, the exoneree may lack a source of income, a means of transportation, health coverage and a stable home. The Innocence Project said it will work with local advocates to pass compensation laws over the next year in several states, including Michigan and Pennsylvania. It will also work with local advocates to make improvements to existing statues in several states, including Florida, New Jersey, New York and Wisconsin.
Here in Wisconsin, there is a Innocence Project as well. The Project is a loose confederation of organizations, some under the name of The Innocence Project of a particular state, others under different names. Of the 27 men and women the Project exonerated and set free (or is in the process of setting free) this year, these four came from Wisconsin: Chaunte Ott, Robert Lee Stinson, Ralph Armstrong, and Forest Shomberg.