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Man exonerated after record 35 years in prison

The night of March 4, 1974, changed the course of James Bain’s life forever. The then 19-year-old Bain was arrested and charged with the kidnapping and rape of a 9-year-old Lake Wales, Fla. boy.

Bain became a suspect after the boy started to describe his attacker and the boy’s uncle claimed the description fit James Bain, who was a student at the high school where he was an assistant principal.

The jury didn’t believe Bain’s alibi that he had been at home with his sister watching television when the crime took place, and instead took the word of the 9-year-old victim who identified Bain in a photo lineup.

Mistaken identity and faulty serology evidence led to Bain’s being sent to prison, where he languished for 35 years, the longest time served of any of the 249 prisoners exonerated by DNA evidence as of the beginning of 2010.

He submitted numerous requests for DNA testing since 2001, but they were continuously denied until his request was finally approved last year thanks to help from The Innocence Project of Florida.

After that, a nationally-recognized forensics lab found that the semen of the perpetrator left on the victim’s underwear during the crime did not match Bain’s DNA.

"I always knew I was innocent. I’ve been waiting well over half my life for this miracle,” said Bain after hearing of the test results. "I hope to be back with my family real soon."

The Innocence Project of Florida Inc. has worked since 2003, using post-conviction DNA testing, to free those unjustly serving life sentences.

A Foundation grantee, the IPF has aided in the release of 11 innocent prisoners.

The Foundation, through its Improvements in the Administration of Justice Grant Program, has provided $1.25 million in funding to the IPF since 2004-05.

Bain's freedom was granted on Dec. 17 after a short hearing in front of Tenth Judicial Circuit Judge James Yancey.

"Today’s outcome is a testament to the strength and perseverance that James has exhibited throughout his whole wrongful incarceration." said IPF staff attorney Melissa Montle. "We are so pleased to reunite him with his family after this ordeal and are excited to work with him to transition back into free society."