Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

DNA evidence frees James Bain from prison after 35 years

BARTOW — James Bain's first taste of freedom was sweet: A large glazed doughnut, a bottle of Mello Yello and some spearmint gum.

After spending 35 years in prison for a rape he didn't commit, Bain's attorneys and family members were happy to supply the snacks. It was one of his first requests after the Thursday morning hearing that set him free.

Bain, 54, sat at a blonde wood table at the courthouse after the hearing and talked about what was next.

"I want to see my mom and hug her," he said. Beyond that, he spoke of a high school diploma, and then a job. He carted laundry in prison and also did some welding, so perhaps he might do something like that in the real world, he said.

His sisters and other relatives couldn't stop grabbing his hands and holding him before taking Bain home, where his wheelchair-bound mother was waiting in West Tampa.

The day had already been a whirlwind for the man who was transferred from Okeechobee Correctional Institution to Polk County jail early Thursday. He was told if he was released, it would be conditional. But right before the hearing, he learned he would be completely exonerated.

Beaming, Bain watched the quick proceedings in a Polk County courtroom, where Judge James Yancey told him, "I'm now signing the order, sir. You are a free man. Congratulations."

Then there was applause. Then Bain walked out of the courtroom to a waiting throng of reporters and TV cameras.

Bain shed his button-down plaid shirt for a black T-shirt that read "Not Guilty" before walking outside to address the crowd. Someone handed him a cell phone — the first time he has ever used one, he said.

"I'm going to see my mama," he told the crowd. "I just got off the phone with her."

Family members were emotional after the hearing. A sister wept and could barely talk. A brother-in-law, who was a boyhood friend of Bain's, was excited.

"I haven't seen him since he was 16," Jessie Atmore said. "It's been a long, long time."

Bain's twin sister, Janie, called her mother before the hearing to tell her Bain would be exonerated.

"I'm so happy, don't know what to do," Sarah Reed told her daughter on the phone. "Tell him his room is ready for him."

It had been waiting for a long time.

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. When he returned home and described the rapist to his uncle, his uncle commented that it sounded like "Jimmy Bain."

Over the years, Bain, who had no prior criminal record when he was convicted at age 19, has repeatedly requested DNA testing on the victim's underwear to prove he did not commit the rape. This past July, a judge finally granted the motion to have the testing done, and it did not match Bain's DNA.

"The really good thing about this is the State Attorney is joined in a motion saying Bain is actually innocent," said public defender Marion Moorman.

Bain said he has a lot to catch up on, including his education. He's not angry, he said, "because I got God in my hands."

Bain is the 246th person in the United States to get exonerated by DNA evidence. Of the 246 released, he has served the longest time in prison.

Meg Laughlin can be reached at mlaughlin@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8068.

DNA evidence frees James Bain from prison after 35 years 12/17/09 [Last modified: Thursday, December 17, 2009 8:36pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Shakeup on Adam Putnam campaign

    Blogs

    In a sign of unsteadiness for what  had  looked like a strong-out-of-the-gate Adam Putnam campaign, the Republican frontrunner suddenly fired his campaign manager and political director. Hard-charging Campaign manager Kristin Davis and political director Jared Small were two of the three outsiders to join …

    Putnam campaigning in Destin the other day as part of his 22-city bus tour
  2. Rays let early lead get away again in loss to Angels (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — As pleased as the Rays were to win consecutive series against the contending Red Sox, Indians and Yankees and to get briefly back over .500, there was a lot of talk in the clubhouse before Monday's game against the Angels that it was time to do better.

    Tampa Bay Rays third base coach Charlie Montoyo (25) high fives designated hitter Corey Dickerson (10) as he rounds third on his lead off home run in the first inning of the game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Los Angeles Angels at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Monday, May 22, 2017.
  3. Tampa man arrested for killing man in his USF-area home

    Crime

    TAMPA — A Tampa man was arrested Monday in the death of man found killed at a home in the University of South Florida area last week, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.

    Kadeem Dareem Archibald, 26, was arrested Monday on a  second degree murder charge in the University Area killing of Khando Kerr. [Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]
  4. Report: Trump asked intel chiefs to push back against FBI collusion probe after Comey revealed its existence

    National

    President Donald Trump asked two of the nation's top intelligence officials in March to help him push back against an FBI investigation into possible coordination between his campaign and the Russian government, the Washington Post reports, citing current and former officials.

    From  left, CIA Director Mike Pompeo; Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats; and National Security Agency Director Adm. Michael Rogers take their seats on Capitol Hill on May 11 before  testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on major threats facing the U.S. [Associated Press]
  5. For Gov. Rick Scott, 'fighting' could mean vetoing entire state budget

    State Roundup

    Every day, Gov. Rick Scott is getting a lot of advice.

    The last time a Florida governor vetoed the education portion of the state budget was in 1983. Gov. Bob Graham blasted fellow Democrats for their “willing acceptance of mediocrity.”