TAMPA, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) –
UPDATE (August 27, 2020) – Robert DuBoise stepped out of Hardee Correctional Institution as a free man for the first time today. When asked what he wanted to do first, “Well, did it. I hugged my mom.”
DuBoise was gracious enough to spend a few more minutes in front of the prison this afternoon to answer questions from the press with his mother and sister at his side. He had admitted to being a bit nervous, but also excited about being free for the first time since 1983. He is aware the road ahead will be a transition and admitted to never having used an iPhone or computer and never stepped foot in a Walmart or a Home Depot.
When asked if he was bitter about the wrongful conviction which resulted in spending nearly 37 years in prison, he proclaimed, “I have no bitterness at all, because I don’t have room in my life for bitterness. Bitterness – if you keep hatred and bitterness in your heart, it just steals your joy from everything else.”
Andrea Alvarez will have the full story tonight on CW44 News At 10.
ORIGINAL (August 26, 2020) – Wednesday, Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren filed a motion to free a man wrongfully convicted of a 1983 murder and attempted rape in Tampa, Florida. The State Attorney’s Office conducted an 11-month investigation and determined Robert DuBoise did not commit the crimes for which he was convicted.
The motion for DuBoise’s release after nearly 37 years behind bars is based on newly discovered DNA evidence, once thought to be lost. “For 37 years, we’ve had an innocent man locked up in prison—while the real perpetrator was never held accountable for this heinous crime,” Warren said. “The family of the victim, Barbara Grams, deserves to have the truth, and this new evidence helps reveal that truth to all of us.”
In September 2019, the Innocence Project submitted a petition to the Conviction Review Unit, (CRU) on behalf of DuBoise, a 55-year-old man. The CRU works to identify, investigate, and remedy wrongful convictions from the past. It is one of the first conviction review units in a Florida prosecutor’s office.
Rape kit samples from DuBoise’s trial were presumed to have been destroyed in 1990, making new DNA testing seemingly impossible. However, in August 2020, in the course of her case review, CRU Supervising Attorney Teresa Hall located rape kit samples unused in the trial, still intact, at the Hillsborough Medical Examiner’s Office. DNA lab tested them.
The results showed that DuBoise’s DNA was not present in the samples. The results identified DNA from two other men — a major contributor and a minor contributor. The major contributor of DNA, was identified and is under investigation, the State Attorney’s Office said in a statement. It also stated they cannot share details of the investigation at this time, they determined that the person of interest poses no threat to public safety in our community.
The State Attorney’s Office credited Innocence Project attorney Susan Friedman who represents DuBoise uncovered exonerating evidence. One piece of evidence included an expert opinion about a bitemark, and a second showed that the jailhouse informant who testified against DuBoise was not credible.
The release said the evidence used to originally convict DuBoise was limited and unreliable. The only physical evidence placing him at the scene was a supposed bitemark on the victim’s face that an expert claimed matched DuBoise. The scientific community now considers bitemark evidence unreliable in identifying perpetrators in criminal cases such as this, and a current expert has determined the injury was not a bitemark at all.
The jailhouse informant testified that DuBoise told him two other men had murdered the victim while DuBoise raped her. The Innocence Project discovered significant inconsistencies in his original testimony. The new DNA evidence now clearly refutes the informant’s testimony; the DNA does not match any of the three men that the informant said were involved in the rape and murder.
“Robert has spent more than 36 years in prison because of discredited bitemark evidence and the testimony of an unreliable jailhouse informant. The presence of DNA from two other people is indisputable scientific proof that he is innocent. Robert has spent decades determined to show that he was wrongfully convicted, and we are eager to see him fully exonerated,” Friedman said.
The State and defense jointly filed the request to release DuBois with the 13th Judicial Circuit Wednesday. Judge Christopher Nash will hear the motion Thursday morning via Zoom. Details on how to watch the remote hearing are available at the 13th Judicial Circuit’s website.
If the Court approves the motion at that hearing, DuBoise is expected to be released the same day.
Thursday’s hearing would reduce DuBoise’s sentence to equal the amount of time he has already served behind bars. This will allow him to be promptly released from prison. Once released, The Innocence Project and CRU will pursue a more complex and time-consuming request that the court to completely reverse his conviction and exonerate him.
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