After 37 years of being incarcerated for a crime he did not commit, Robert DuBoise was expected to be released from prison on Thursday, according to a press release from Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren’s office.
In 1985, DuBoise was found guilty of the rape and murder in the death of 19-year-old Barbara Grams. At the time, testimony relied heavily from a doctor linking DuBoise to what was thought to be a bite mark found on Grams’ body, as well as testimony from a jailhouse informant.
Innocence Project attorney Susan Friedman represented DuBoise and worked on his case for years. She uncovered inconsistencies in the informant’s story and discovered the injury to Grams was not actually a bite mark. She turned to the State Attorney’s Office Correction Review Unit, which was created to remedy wrongful convictions.
Despite believing evidence from the case had been destroyed, CRU Supervising Attorney Teresa Hall located rape kit samples at the Hillsborough Medical Examiner’s Office earlier this month that weren't used at the 1985 trial. The results showed DuBoise’s DNA was not in any of the samples.
“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,” State Attorney Warren said in the press release. “The family of the victim, Barbara Grams, deserves to have the truth, and this new evidence helps reveal that truth to all of us.”
On Aug. 19, 1985, a gardener found the body of Grams behind a dentist’s office. After she was spotted walking home from her restaurant job, she was attacked and beaten with a wood beam, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
DuBoise was convicted of the crime and, initially, sentenced to death, but it was later changed to life in prison, TV station WFLA reported.
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At the time, DNA testing was unreliable and prosecutors relied on the bite mark as evidence purported to show that DuBoise was at the scene. But now, the scientific community considers bite marks as unreliable.
“Despite all the safeguards in our system, when science tells us we have convicted the wrong person, we must listen and act,” Warren said. “It’s time to right a wrong that dates back 37 years. I apologize to Mr. DuBoise on behalf of the entire justice system. We can’t give him back the time he’s lost, but from the moment we learned of this case, my CRU worked diligently to research the facts, find the truth, and request his release.”
The results of the rape kit samples identified two separate men. The State Attorney’s Office declined to provide details regarding the new investigation, but stated “the person of interest poses no threat to public safety in our community.”
On Wednesday, a judge ordered the release of the 56-year-old DuBoise, TV station WWAY reported. A hearing was set for Sept. 14 so officials could begin the process of officially exonerating DuBoise.
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