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Tampa Man Exonerated After 37 Years Behind Bars

Robert DuBoise at his exoneration hearing
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Robert DuBoise, right, with attorney Susan Friedman of The Innocence Project at his exoneration hearing

Robert DuBoise was finally exonerated Monday, 37 years after he was wrongfully convicted on charges of rape and murder.

Robert DuBoise was exonerated Monday after serving 37 years in prison for a rape and murder he didn't commit. It came after new testing was done on old evidence.

DuBoise was released from prison in August based on new DNA testing on evidence from the victim’s rape kit that was thought to have been destroyed.

During his exoneration hearing, DuBoise said "I've always been pretty mistrusting of the system," but was willing to forgive that same system for finally setting him free.

"To see it come to fruit like it has, there really are true, honest people in these offices now," he said. "It's just been amazing. And I'm just very grateful to every one of you."

Christopher Nash is a judge with the state's 13th Judicial Circuit.

"This court has failed you for 37 years. It has failed you until today. It has finally succeeded," he told DuBoise. "And I think it would be reasonable for you to feel a lot of resentment and bitterness about those 37 years. But you seem to instead to have an uncommon capacity for grace and for forgiveness."

Duboise's case was taken on by The Innocence Project, a New York-based law group dedicated to exonerating people who have been wrongfully convicted. They worked with the Conviction Review Unit, which was recently set up by the Hillsborough State Attorney's Office.

"It's been 37 years. We're righting this wrong today, finally," said Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren. "And I appreciate the court for its willingness to work with us as all three sides of the courtroom came together to fix an injustice long overdue.

Susan Friedman is Duboise' attorney with The Innocence Project.

"Robert has steadfastly maintained his innocence, and after 37 years his voice has finally been heard. And the world finally knows his truth," she said. "Robert has a long journey ahead of him, but for today he takes his first steps into the Florida sunshine as a free person."

The Hillsborough State Attorney Office will work with The Innocence Project to review past convictions that relied on bite mark evidence, which has been discredited by modern science.

This is from a press release from The Innocence Project:

The CRU’s audit is the first systematic review of bite mark cases that has been initiated by a prosecutor’s office. DuBoise is not alone in being convicted based on unreliable bite mark evidence -- at least 33 known wrongful convictions and indictments stemmed from bite mark evidence. For decades, forensic odontologists testified that they could identify the source of a bite mark. However, years of research have wholly undermined this assertion. The significant changes in the understanding of bite mark evidence have led the American Board of Forensic Odontology (ABFO) to revise its standards and guidelines to explicitly state that “an ABFO Diplomate shall not express conclusions unconditionally linking a bite mark to a dentition.” As a result, the forensic odontologist’s testimony in DuBoise’s case would no longer be admissible.

Under Florida’s current compensation law, DuBoise is not eligible to receive any compensation for the 37 years he was in prison because, when he was a teenager, he was previously convicted of minor offenses related to the possession of a stolen bike, and entering a vacant home that was unlocked. Florida is the only state that disqualifies exonerees from being compensated if they were convicted of unrelated crimes. The Innocence Project is advocating for legislation to remove this provision.