Robert DuBoise did what was asked of him. When he was 18 years old, police asked him to submit a mold of his teeth. At the time, he had no idea the mold would tie him to a murder and lead him to death row.
For 37 years, DuBoise sat in prison falsely convicted while evidence that would eventually exonerate him was locked away in a filing cabinet.
How did bad evidence lead DuBoise to a wrongful conviction, and what does his recent exoneration mean for DuBoise and those who locked him away?
What Led to DuBoise’s Wrongful Conviction?
In 1985, Robert DuBoise was sentenced to death by Judge Harry Lee Coe III for the crime of sexual assault and murder of a 19-year-old woman.
The conviction was based on two pieces of evidence, according to The Innocence Project.
The first was a bite mark that appeared on the victim. The detectives on the case consulted with odontologist, Dr. Richard Souviron who told them to begin collecting bite mark impressions from suspects.
DuBoise was considered a suspect after he was identified by a local resident as someone who had “caused problems.” DuBoise, who had no record of violent crime, was asked to submit a mold of his teeth. He fully cooperated with police. Dr. Souviron said it was a match, and DuBoise was taken into custody.
The next piece of evidence came after DuBoise was arrested. A jailhouse informant said DuBoise confessed while he was in Hillsborough County Jail awaiting trial.
The state presented a story that DuBoise, along with his brother and a friend, sexually assaulted and then killed the 19-year-old victim. DuBoise’s brother and friend were never charged for the crime. DuBoise was convicted, and although the jury recommended life in prison, the judge sentenced him to death. (In 1988, the death sentence was vacated and replaced with life in prison.)
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What Was Wrong with the Evidence?
DuBoise maintained his innocence for years, and it took him until 2006 to take the first step toward exoneration.
He discovered that there might be evidence that wasn’t used during the trial, and he filed a motion for post-conviction DNA testing. But it did little to move the case forward. According to The Innocence Project, in 2008, a judge said additional testing of evidence was unnecessary.
It wasn’t until ten years later, in 2018, when The Innocence Project began looking closely into the case that the bad evidence — and lack of evidence — was fully brought to light.
- An attorney discovered that the rape kit sample in DuBoise’s trial had never been used. The Innocence Project submitted the sample for testing and discovered that DuBoise’s DNA was not present — and there was genetic evidence from two other men.
- It was revealed that the jailhouse informant had received benefits in exchange for his testimony. He was facing a life sentence for criminal charges including kidnapping, armed robbery, and battery on a law enforcement officer, but he was given a plea deal for a sentence of five years after sharing his testimony against DuBoise.
- Another forensic odontologist reviewed the bite mark and found that the original report which said the bite marks matched DuBoise was unsupported by science. It was concluded that the injury wasn’t even a bite mark.
Based on this new evidence, a judge vacated DuBoise’s conviction. He was released after serving 37 years for a crime he didn’t commit.
Seeking Justice for DuBoise
DuBoise unnecessarily served 37 years in prison, and now he wants justice.
DuBoise is suing the City of Tampa, three detectives who were on his case, and the forensic odontologist, Dr. Richard R. Souviron. According to WFLA in Tampa, “The complaint filed by DuBoise’s legal team alleges that Tampa detectives and Dr. Souviron fabricated evidence and conspired to secure his wrongful conviction.”
There are also two lawmakers attempting to right the injustice. Two bills have been filed that could help DuBoise. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, and Rep. Andrew Learned, D-Brandon filed similar bills that could leave DuBoise with $1.85 million, which is equivalent to $50,000 for each year he spent in prison.
Regardless of how much money DuBoise gets or what comes out of his civil case, DuBoise will never be able to get back the 37 years he spent behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit.
Strong Legal Representation Matters
Justice was not served in the DuBoise case. It wasn’t served for the victim, and it took too long for it to arrive for DuBoise. This case highlights how important it is to have an attorney by your side who will fight for your best interest from day one.
If you are accused of or arrested for a crime, do not take action until you speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can ensure that your rights are not violated during the legal process. And, if you feel like your attorney isn’t doing a good enough job of fighting for you, get a new one. It is within your rights to change attorneys during a case.
Don’t let bad evidence stop you from getting justice. Talk to experienced criminal defense attorney TJ Grimaldi today. Request your free consultation or call 813-226-1023 today.