Robert DuBoise is suing the City of Tampa after spending 37 years in prison for a crime he did not commit.
Let’s take a look at why Robert was arrested, why he was released, and which states provide monetary compensation for wrongful incarcerations.
Why was Robert DuBoise arrested?
On October 22, 1983, Robert DuBoise was arrested for the murder of 19-year-old Barbara Grams.
Two main pieces of evidence were used to link Robert to the murder.
First, the body of the victim bore a bite mark that matched—according to forensic odontologist Dr. Richard Souviron—a stone cast model of Robert’s bite mark.
Second, Robert’s cellmate, Claude Butler, allegedly told the Florida police that Robert confessed to murdering Barbara Grams.
In March of 1985, a jury convicted Robert of first-degree murder and attempted sexual battery. He was sentenced to death.
After 3 years on death row, the Florida Supreme Court vacated (set aside) Robert’s death sentence and resentenced Robert to life in prison.
Why was Robert Duboise released from prison?
In 2020, an attorney with the Conviction Review Unit (CRU) in the Office of the State Attorney for the 13th Judicial Circuit found rape kit samples that had NOT been used during Robert’s trial.
The kit was submitted for DNA testing by the Innocence Project and ultimately showed that Robert’s DNA was not present. Rather, DNA evidence in the sample came from 2 other men.
Following the revelation, the Innocence Project worked with CRU to investigate the conviction. A motion was filed shortly thereafter asking for the release of Robert. On August 27, 2020, Robert walked free after being wrongfully locked up for 37 years.
“I never lost faith that today would come,” Robert said. “To walk out of this nightmare and hug my mother and sister after almost 4 decades, knowing I was innocent is bittersweet. I can never regain the birthdays, holidays, and precious time I lost with them, never mind the life I could have made for myself. I am grateful to be here, now with a chance to move forward, but I know there are more innocent people like me still behind bars.”
Can Robert Duboise receive compensation for being wrongfully incarcerated?
In most cases, the state of Florida provides $50,000 per year of wrongful incarceration for those imprisoned for crimes they didn’t commit. At 37 years, this would net Robert $1.85 million.
There is, however, an important exception. The law excludes those who have a single prior violent felony or multiple nonviolent felonies. This so-called “clean hands” provision applies to Robert who was sentenced to probation for burglary and grand theft when he was 17.
Robert may still be able to receive compensation though if the claim bill filed on his behalf is approved during the 2022 Legislative Session.
Claim bills like the one filed on Robert’s behalf have been successful in recent history. In 2020, a Jacksonville man, Clifford Williams, received more than $2 million in compensation after spending 43 years in prison despite the fact that Clifford, like Robert, had multiple prior convictions.
Robert isn’t waiting around to see if the claim bill is approved though. He’s suing the police officers who worked on his case as well as the City of Tampa and forensic odontologist Richard Souviron.
According to the lawsuit filed by Robert’s legal team, police officers:
- Conspired to get an informant facing a long-term prison sentence to testify that Robert confessed to the crime. (Notably, the informant's testimony changed over time and he failed a polygraph test.)
- Suppressed other evidence that didn’t support Robert’s conviction.
What other states provide compensation for wrongful incarcerations?
Florida is not the only state that provides compensation for wrongful incarcerations. The federal government, the District of Columbia, and 37 states have such compensation statutes.
Here’s a closer look at all 50 states and what they provide:
|A state-by-state comparison of
wrongful incarceration compensation
|More than $50,000 per year of wrongful incarceration||$50,000 per year||Less than $50,000 per year||No set amount||No compensation laws|
Keep in mind that many of these states have exceptions similar to the rule that has so far prevented Robert from receiving his compensation. If you’ve been wrongfully incarcerated, it’s important to discuss your legal options with an attorney as soon as possible.