TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — After spending the majority of his life behind bars for a murder he didn’t commit, a Tampa man waiting for money from the State of Florida has Tampa Bay lawmakers fighting to see justice served and relief delivered.
State Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-Pinellas) authored the latest attempt to have state legislators pay Robert DuBoise, 56, for the almost 37 years he spent in jail. He was convicted in 1985 at the age of 18 for the rape and murder of 19-year-old Barbara Grams.
Starting in 2019, the Innocence Project and the 13th Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office Conviction Review Unit took another look at DuBoise’s case. The effort took 11 months. Newly examined genetic evidence conclusively proved his innocence in the summer of 2020, and he was exonerated. The investigation is reportedly the first such audit performed by a unit of this type, according to the Innocence Project.
In August 2020, DuBoise finally walked free, but DuBoise’s story doesn’t end there. DuBoise filed for postconviction relief, a way to receive money from the state for time spent in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.
State law typically gives exonerated victims of the justice system $50,000 per year of wrongful incarceration. For DuBoise, that’s almost $2 million. For him to get his relief, at such a high amount, the state legislature has to vote to approve the settlement and pay it.
In 2021, Rep. Andrew Learned (D-Hillsborough) and Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-Pinellas) put forward legislation to get DuBoise his $1.85 million settlement. The effort failed to gain enough approval in the legislature to pass. Additionally, while the state had approved the amount and just needed approval from the House and Senate, a Florida statute blocked him from getting the money due to a prior, non-felony conviction.
Called a clean hands provision, Florida law requires a clean record for wrongfully convicted residents to receive relief. In November 2021, Brandes filed legislation to waive the clean hands provision for DuBoise. Similar action had been taken for another individual in 2020. Since his release, DuBoise has worked as a handyman and lives with his mother.
Should the effort to pay DuBoise and waive the clean hands provision pass in 2022, he would receive the $1.85 million, plus a free education for up to 120 hours of trade school or traditional college at a state college or university.
Both lawmakers, Learned and Brandes, have renewed their efforts in the current legislative session to get DuBoise the money Florida owes him for the life he spent in jail.