TAMPA (FOX 13) - On Tuesday, the Office of State Attorney Andrew Warren announced the creation of a Conviction Review Unit in Hillsborough County.
Those in the community who believe they have been wrongfully convicted of a crime could have another chance to prove their innocence through the new initiative.
The Conviction Review Unit will work hard to prevent, identify, and remedy wrongful convictions that have been handed down.
Many believe this program has the potential to change individual's lives. No one knows this better than James Bain, who was sentenced to life in prison for a crime he did not commit.
Despite having an alibi, Bain was accused of rape, kidnapping, and burglary. He served 35 years before he was exonerated through DNA evidence.
“I thought I was going to die there, because you sit in there, year after year. After 25 years of mandatory, you're allowed to see the parole board to try and get out of prison. I went four times. They turned me down all four. So, I just knew at that point I was going to die there,” Bain told FOX 13 News.
Bain has been living as a free man for nine years. He's now married and has a young son. He says a program like this might have helped him prove his innocence much faster.
Assistant State Attorney Teresa Hall will lead the organization, but she will be assisted by numerous other legal experts from throughout the community who will comprise an Independent Review Panel.
Those who believe they are innocent despite a conviction can submit a petition for the panel to review their case. If the panel believes the claim is credible with evidence to support it, they will then launch an investigation. Depending on the nature of the case, a full investigation could last many months.
The Conviction Review Unit is now up and running as of today. For more information about how you can petition the panel or a review, visit www.sao13th.com.
This initiative marks the third of its kind in the state.