Man formerly on Florida death row, denied compensation after being wrongfully incarcerated

Hillsborough County

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Cap News Services) – A man who spent 37 years in state prison for a rape and murder he didn’t commit is also being barred from being compensated for his wrongful conviction. 

Robert DuBoise was released from prison in 2020 following a reexamination of the case by the Conviction Review Unit in the Office of the State Attorney for the 13th Judicial Circuit. The case stems from the 1983 murder and rape of 19-year-old Barbara Grams.

Now efforts are underway to eliminate or bypass the so-called “clean hands” provision that bars compensation if there had been previous convictions.

DuBoise was 18-years-old at the time, and was convicted in 1985. According to the Florida Innocence Project, DuBoise was sentenced to death by Judge Harry Lee Coe III, despite a jury recommendation of a life sentence.

In 1988, the death sentence was vacated in favor of life in prison.

According to the State Attorney’s Office, some evidence from the case was presumed to have been destroyed in the intervening years.

In August 2020, an attorney with the CRU found rape kit samples that had not been used during DuBoise’s trial. It was submitted for DNA testing by the Innocence Project and showed that DuBoise’s DNA was not present. Instead, genetic evidence in the sample came from two other men.

Over 11 months, the Innocence Project worked with the CRU to investigate the conviction, and determined that DuBoise did not commit the crime. The SAO filed a motion to release DuBoise after nearly 37 years in prison, three of which were on death row. On Aug. 27, 2020, DuBoise walked free.

Duboise has maintained his innocence the entire time.

“You just got to keep your faith. That’s what it’s about. You’ve got to have patience. It’s easy to get in there, but it’s hard to prove your Innoncence once you’re in,” said Duboise.

His problem is that he had previously been sent to prison for nonviolent felonies. Under Florida law, anyone wrongly convicted seeking compensation must have a clean record.

State Senator Jeff Brandes has filed legislation waiving the clean hands provision for Duboise.

“We’ve taken a portion of their lives as a state then they should be compensated for that wrongful conviction,” said Brandes.

State law sets payments for wrongful convictions at $50,000 a year. In Mr. Duboise’s case, he would qualify for $1.85 million.

In 2020, lawmakers waived the clean hands requirement for Clifford Williams. If they do the same for Duboise, he’s already got a plan in place.

“I would get me a house, which I’ve never had, and just concentrate on the future. Invest, and just keep pushing forward,” said Duboise.

Even if the money comes through, Duboise told us he’s going to keep working.

Since his release last fall, Duboise has been working as a handyman, doing small construction and maintenance projects.  

The legislation also apologizes for the wrong, and provides Duboise with 120 hours of trade school or college free at a state institution.

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