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Gardner freed from jail after 26 years; new trial date set

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A mother is getting her son back.

“I can’t say nothing but thank you Jesus!” said Gladys Gardner, the mother of Jimmie Gardner, a state prison inmate who was released Friday after 26 years.

“All I wanted was for him to come home one more time,” she told reporters inside a packed Kanawha County courtroom.

Gardner, 49, a former Charleston Wheelers minor league baseball player, posted bond Friday following a court hearing where Kanawha County Circuit Judge Joanna Tabit set that bond at $10,000.

He had been incarcerated since 1990 when he was convicted of rape and robbery. The incident took place in 1987 where prosecutors say Gardner sexually assaulted a woman then beat her and her elderly mother in Kanawha City.

Gardner’s conviction came from the testimony of Fred Zain, a state police crime lab boss whose work was later discredited along with over 100 other cases that were then reopened. Zain was charged with fraud, but died in 2002.

It wasn’t until last Friday when U.S. District Judge Joseph Goodwin ordered Gardner either be retried or released within 60 days.

“I’d like to thank Judge Goodwin for making his order,” said Eric Gardner, Jimmie’s younger brother. “This is big for him to even be able to come home. I haven’t seen him in so long face-to-face. It’s a blessing.”

“It still feels like I’m dreaming,” he said as he slightly shook his head with tears running down his face. “This is the best birthday ever.”

But Don Morris, Kanawha County assistant prosecutor, told the judge they have enough evidence to retry Gardner.

“We not only have DNA evidence, which is consistent with the defendant Jimmie Gardner, but we also have fingerprint evidence,” Morris said.

Gardner’s new trial date is set for May 16.

He was released into his mother’s custody who lives in Albany, Georgia.

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