Convicting the Innocent
DNA Exonerations Database

Charles Irvin Fain

First NameCharles Irvin
Last NameFain
Year of Conviction1983
Year of Exoneration2001
State of ConvictionIdaho
Trial, Bench Trial, or Guilty PleaTrial
Type of CrimeRape and Murder
Death SentenceYes
Gender of ExonereeMale
Race of exonereeWhite
Type of Innocence Defense
  • Alibi
Description / Quotes from Testimony Concerning Defense

● Defendant’s father and mother testified that, at the time of the murder, the defendant lived at their house, which was located in a different state than the one in which the murder occurred.

Did the defendant testify at trial?Yes
Quotes from Exoneree Testimony

“Q: Are you guilty of any of these offenses charged? A: No sir, I did not do any of them.”

Types of evidence at trial
  • Forensic Evidence
  • Informant
Type of Forensic Evidence
  • Shoe print
Types of Flawed Forensics
  • Invalid
Reason why invalid(5), (6) Invalid individualization using shoe print, hair unique characteristic testimony
Brief Quote / Description of Testimony

The analyst testified that the shoe wear pattern was unique to the defendant, stating “I found, therefore, that the shoe which made this impression, and this left shoe had sustained wear in the same area. To a – – a shoe print examiner, this would indicate that the individual who walked with these shoes has the same walking gait.” Though explaining that hair examination is subjective, the analyst noted a bifurcated medulla, testified that this gave “the sample uniqueness” explaining “It’s not often seen in hair samples. The bifurcated medulla, for instance, is not – – it’s not a characteristics that is very common, so that’s – – that’s the reason why I remember this particular characteristic.” See Part II.E. for a discussion of this case. Serology was described as inconclusive.

Identity of eyewitness
  • Intraracial Identificaiton
  • Non-victim
Jailhouse informant, Co-defendant, Incentivized WitnessIW, J
Examples of Non-Public or Corroborated Facts and Inconsistencies● Non-public details in admissions recounted by two jailhouse informants ● One described Fain recounting where he drove with the victim, that he drowned her in water, that he raped her and a “golf ball sized lump” on her forehead consistent with photographs of her body ● A second informant chiefly accounted for the lack of forensic evidence, claiming that the defendant bragged about cleaning out his car carefully. Prosecutor emphasized that there were two informants – “Not one, but two persons, and I believe the old rule is that in the mouth of two or three witnesses shall everything be established. This defendant committed those crimes."
Quotes from testimony #3

First informant testified: “Fain come and started talking about the young girls… and then he went into – well, this case. About picking [the victim] up on Greenleaf, making a U-turn on Seventh. Going over to Fairview, out to Twelfth, and then to a pumping station; and he says, ‘Oh, I guess I shouldn’t have told you that.” He said that he was “molesting her,” and “This time when she got away, she tripped and fell and she hit her head, her forehead. He said, ‘A know come up on her about the size of a golf ball.’ He wasn’t satisfied and finished with what he was going, so he went back and got his satisfaction. Then he took her and put her in the ditch. He carried her to a ditch and held her head under water.” “When his back was turned and he walked away, I fished these two maps out of the toilet and put them in my pants.” Second informant testified that “Mr. Fain had stated that the detectives were going about his case all wrong, and that he had cleaned his car out numerous times, and he cleaned it out so good that they would not be able to detect anything in his automobile.” And “he had caught the girl, and had placed her in some water which he did not say; and then he had left…”

Quotes regarding any deal or leniency with informant, or prior use of informant

Court ruled “there is no evidence to establish that this was a covert or subterfuge on the part of the state to plant [first informant] in this cell.” The police officer denied any promise of leniency.

Highest level reachedState Post­ Conviction
Claims Raised During All Appeals and Postconviction
  • Improper Capital Sentencing Instructions
  • State Law Evidence Claim
  • Willfull Destruction of Material Evidence
Harmless Error Rulings
  • G
  • HE
Citations to judicial opinions

State v. Fain, 774 P.2d 252 (Idaho 1989)
Idaho v. Fain, 493 U.S. 917 (1989)
State v. Fain, 809 P.2d 1149 (Idaho 1991)
Fain v. Idaho, 504 U.S. 987 (1992)

Read more about this exoneration