TAMPA (WFLA) — A Tampa man serving a life sentence for murder and rape has been cleared of the crime by recently-discovered DNA evidence, according to the Innocence Project and the Hillsborough State Attorney’s office.
Robert Duboise served 37 years in Florida State Prison for the death of Barbara Grams, a 19-year-old Tampa woman police found beaten to death behind a dental practice in 1983. He was released on Thursday afternoon.
Articles from the time reported that hair, saliva and blood samples from the scene were inclusive. However, a jury convicted Duboise based on reconstructed bite marks that the prosecution argued matched his teeth, and the testimony of another state inmate.
The jury recommended a life sentence. The judge, Harry Coe, overruled and gave Duboise the death penalty, but that was reduced through appeal a few year later.
Previously “lost” DNA evidence discovered recently in the course of an 11 month long review of Duboise’s case found that he was in fact not a match for forensic evidence collected from the murder investigation, according to a spokesperson with the state attorney’s office.
The Innocence Project is representing Duboise and is working to get him released from the Hardee Correctional Institution as soon as possible. The organization is responsible for raising concerns over Duboise’s conviction to local officials.
State Attorney Andrew Warren called a press conference for Wednesday afternoon to announced the developments.
Robert Nutter, Duboise’s former defense attorney, tells 8 On Your Side he is grateful, as he was always convinced of Duboise’s innocence.
“I think for our system to continue to investigate his case and come up with something that vindicates him is wonderful,” Nutter said. “That’s the American way.”
Forensic odontology, the application of dental science to legal investigations, is becoming increasingly dismissed as sound science for trial. The Innocence Project reports that it has helped overturn dozens of wrongful convictions that relied heavily on bite mark analysis.
Duboise’s Innocence Project counsel said his family is not ready to speak publicly about the developments.
Family for Barbara Grams could not be reached.
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