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James Bain
James Bain
Ty Eppsteiner

Incident Date: 3/4/74

Jurisdiction: FL

Charge:

Conviction:

Sentence: Life

Year of Conviction: 1974

Exoneration Date: 12/17/09

Sentence Served: 35 Years

Real perpetrator found? Not Yet

Contributing Causes: Eyewitness Misidentification, Unvalidated or Improper Forensic Science

Compensation? Yes

James Bain spent more time in prison for a crime he did not commit than any other American exonerated through DNA evidence. As a teenager, Bain was convicted of rape and kidnapping in 1974; he was released in 2009 at the age of 54.

The Crime

On the evening of March 4, 1974, a nine-year-old boy residing in Lake Wales, Florida, fell asleep alongside his brothers and sisters. Later that evening, he was lifted from his bed and dragged through the window to a baseball field, where the attacker forced the boy to the ground and raped him.

The Investigation

The victim told police that his assailant appeared to have been 17 or 18 years old and had a mustache and bushy sideburns. According to the victim, the man had said his name was “Jim” or “Jimmy.” The victim’s uncle thought this description sounded a lot like “Jimmy Bain,” whom he knew through the high school at which he was an assistant principal and Bain had been a student. Police showed the victim five or six photographs of potential suspects, he chose the one of Bain. However, of the photographs in the lineup, only Bain and one other man had sideburns. The victim’s uncle provided the photo of Bain, which he took from Bain’s student file. 
The police collected the victim’s jockey underwear and sent it to the FBI to be tested. The police questioned Bain at his home at around midnight on the night of March 5, 1974. Bain claimed that he had been at home watching television at the time of the attack; this alibi was supported by Bain’s sister. Nevertheless, the police arrested him.

The Trial

According to FBI analysis presented at the trial, the rapist did leave semen on the victim’s underwear. The trial occurred, however, before DNA testing was available, so Bain could not be definitively tied to the semen; he could, however, match its blood group. An FBI analyst testified that the semen on the underwear was of blood group B. Bain’s blood group was AB, but, according to the analyst, Bain’s group had a weak A and thus he could not be excluded from having deposited the semen. An expert for the defense testified that Bain’s group actually had a strong A, and therefore he could be definitively excluded.

In spite of this conflicting serological evidence and Bain’s alibi, Bain was convicted of rape, kidnapping, and burglary. The prosecution’s case rested largely on the victim’s identification of Bain in the photo lineup. James Bain, who had no previous criminal record, was sentenced to life in prison.

Post-Conviction

A 2001 Florida statute made it possible for certain cases to be reopened for DNA testing. Upon hearing this, Bain presented four handwritten motions for the DNA evidence in his case to be tested. In all, the case came before the Circuit Court five times and was denied all five times. With the aid of the Innocence Project of Florida and Tenth Judicial Circuit Public Defender Bob Young, Bain was finally granted access to post-conviction DNA testing. The state sent the DNA found on the victim’s underwear to the DNA Diagnostics Center. This testing excluded Bain as the source of the DNA.

The Polk County State Attorney, Jerry Hill, then joined the defense in a motion to declare Bain innocent. On December 17, 2009, Judge James Yancey signed the order releasing Bain from prison after 35 years.

James Bain
James Bain
Ty Eppsteiner

Incident Date: 3/4/74

Jurisdiction: FL

Charge:

Conviction:

Sentence: Life

Year of Conviction: 1974

Exoneration Date: 12/17/09

Sentence Served: 35 Years

Real perpetrator found? Not Yet

Contributing Causes: Eyewitness Misidentification, Unvalidated or Improper Forensic Science

Compensation? Yes