For the past 28 years that Donald Eugene Gates has languished in prison, he is the only person on Earth who knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that he never raped and murdered a 21-year-old student at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.
Gates was convicted and sentenced to 20 years to life for the 1981 murder of Catherine Schilling, largely on the testimony of a lone FBI analyst, whose work in previous cases had been considered shaky.
On Tuesday, the 58-year-old former construction worker walked through the gates of a federal prison in in Arizona and boarded a bus to Ohio, thanks to the dogged work of an attorney with the D.C. Public Defender Service and more modern DNA testing.
Sandra K. Levick, one of Gates' attorneys from the D.C. Public Defender Service, said she came across the inspector general's report while doing her own research for the case, The Associated Press writes. She then obtained more information through a Freedom of Information Act request that showed the FBI had issued warnings about the work of Malone and 12 other analysts who were criticized by the inspector general. As part of a review requested by the FBI, prosecutors confirmed they had relied on Malone's work to obtain Gates' conviction.
"I feel beautiful," Gates told The Associated Press after leaving the U.S. penitentiary in Tucson, Ariz.
Hundreds of miles away in Florida, James Bain is expected to be allowed to go home Thursday after serving 35 years of a life sentence for allegedly kidnapping a 9-year-old boy from his bed and raping him. The boy told police that he fell asleep with his brothers and sisters, but when he woke up a man was dragging him by a baseball field.
Bain was just 19 years old when a jury falsely convicted him of the crime. After being shown five photographs of potential suspects, the boy picked out the photo of Bain. The victim, now 44, still lives in Florida and has been made aware of the goof up. Sources told media that he is afraid for his life and would like the real rapist caught and convicted.
Eight years ago, Florida passed a law that allows cases to be reopened for DNA testing. Even though Bain submitted motions to be tested, he was denied four times. On his fifth attempt, an appeals court ruled that he was entitled to a hearing.
Bain’s family members said they knew all along he was innocent but felt helpless. It was like death, his mother told CNN.
"He was just a child when he went in there. I've been trying to hold on. I've had things wrong with me, and I was afraid I wouldn't be here when he got out," Bain's mother, Sarah Reed, told CNN.
Of the 245 people in the United States who have been exonerated by DNA testing, none has spent more time behind bars than Bain, according to the Innocence Project, a national organization dedicated to exonerating wrongfully convicted people through DNA testing.
"I thanked the Lord. He must have did it for a reason," Reed said. "The Lord has a reason for putting him in here, and he has a reason for keeping me around for me to see this."