Page last updated at 09:20 GMT, Friday, 18 December 2009

US man freed by DNA evidence after 35 years in prison

James Bain contacted his mother by mobile phone when he left jail

A US man has become the longest-serving prisoner to be freed after DNA evidence proved he was innocent of the crime he was convicted of three decades ago.

James Bain spent 35 years in jail after being found guilty of kidnapping and raping a nine-year-old boy in 1974.

On his release from prison in Florida on Thursday, he told the BBC he was not angry and his faith had helped him.

He has always maintained his innocence, but was only allowed a review of his case following an appeal.

During his final court hearing signalling his release, Mr Bain wore a T-shirt with the words "Not Guilty" on it.

The 54-year-old, who was jailed at the age of 19, told the BBC's World Today programme that he felt very emotional and "extremely great".

'In God's hands'

He said his first duty upon his release was to see his mother.

"I felt so good but because of her [my mother's] health I had to go to the house. She never gave up, the same as [me]."

He said the support of his family and his religious faith had helped him get through his ordeal.

He walked out of the courthouse, a free man, a free man in America
Seth Miller

"[It] just was the right time for God to release me from this. I just had to be very patient for that... I cannot feel angry. I put all that in God's hands," he said.

After leaving Polk County courthouse, Mr Bain said he hoped to return to school and he was looking forward to eating fried turkey and drinking Dr Pepper.

The Innocence Project of Florida helped co-ordinate Mr Bain's release. It says that he was imprisoned for far longer than any of the other 246 inmates exonerated by DNA evidence across the US.

Mr Bain was freed after filing several petitions asking for his case to be reviewed and DNA tests to be carried out.

Most of these were thrown out but following an order by a judge, test results which came in last week showed Mr Bain was innocent.

He had been convicted mainly on the strength of the victim identifying him out of a line-up, although tests available at the time did not definitely link him to the crime, the Associated Press reported.

Mr Bain said he had been watching television with his twin sister when the crime occurred.

Innocence Project of Project lawyer Seth Miller told the World Today: "He walked out of the courthouse, a free man, a free man in America.

"And the family's excited to have Jamie back with them and this is the first day of the rest of his life and we're excited to be able to share it with him."

Last year Florida passed a law that means Mr Bain is entitled to $1.75m (£1.08m) for the time he spent in jail while innocent.

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