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Saturday, 25 August, 2001, 05:38 GMT 06:38 UK
American released from death row
Charles Fain talks to reporters
Charles Fain says he is not angry
A man who spent almost 18 years on death row in an American prison has been released after fresh evidence proved he was innocent in a murder case.

I just haven't got any anger toward them. God just took it all away

Charles Fain
Charles Fain was convicted of raping and then drowning a nine-year-old girl in 1982 and has been imprisoned in the US state of Idaho since 1984.

But a judge ordered his release two hours after new DNA tests showed conclusively that hairs found on the young girl did not belong to Mr Fain, who is now 52.

Mr Fain, who became deeply religious shortly after his incarceration, said he felt no hostility against those who wrongly convicted him.

"I just haven't got any anger toward them. God just took it all away," Mr Fain told the Associated Press news agency.

Evidence overturned

The hairs were the principle evidence used against Mr Fain during his trial, according to prison officials.

According to the Death Penalty Information Centre, Mr Fain is the 97th death row inmate exonerated since 1973 and the 11th whose case involved a DNA exclusion.

DNA testing in a laboratory
DNA testing is not a matter of course
Convicts are not automatically entitled to DNA testing. In Mr Fain's case the district judge had to authorise funds for the forensic testing.

"When this DNA stuff stated coming on in the news, something just told me it was going to be part of this case," said Mr Fain.

Faulty convictions

A recent study of the death penalty in the US found that two-thirds of all capital convictions are overturned on appeal.

Of the cases where courts ordered a new trial, 7% were acquitted, while 75% were convicted but sentenced to lesser punishment.

There are no definitive cases of innocent people having been executed, but the numbers of people released from death row on appeal have raised suspicions.

Only a small number were cleared by DNA evidence and the rest for a variety of reasons, including recanted testimony, evidence overlooked or withheld or inadequate legal representation.

DNA testing is becoming increasingly important in challenging existing convictions.

See also:

15 Aug 01 | Americas
Spotlight on US death penalty
15 Aug 01 | Americas
US teen killer set to die
12 Jun 00 | Americas
Most US death sentences 'flawed'
11 Jun 01 | Americas
Defiant McVeigh dies in silence
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