Gov. DeSantis approves legislation compensating Tampa man for wrongful conviction

Robert DuBoise had been convicted 'largely on expert bite mark analysis testimony ... now known to be junk science.'

Florida Department of Corrections

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday signed legislation that compensates a Florida man for his wrongful conviction of almost 37 years, three of which were spent on Florida’s death row.

On Oct. 22, 1983, Robert DuBoise was arrested for a rape and murder that occurred the previous Aug. 18 in Tampa. On March 7, 1985, DuBoise was convicted of capital murder and attempted sexual battery.

“After the sentencing hearing the jury (unanimously) recommended life imprisonment," the court said. "The trial judge refused to abide by the recommendation and imposed a death sentence.”

On direct appeal, in a decision dated Feb. 4, 1988, the Florida Supreme Court affirmed DuBoise’s convictions but vacated DuBoise’s death sentence and remanded “with instructions to the trial court to impose a sentence of life imprisonment.”

The court held “that the court improperly overrode the jury’s unanimous recommendation of life imprisonment.”

A few months later, per the court’s decision, DuBoise was resentenced to life in prison with a consecutive sentence of fifteen years for attempted sexual battery.

Since his arrest, DuBoise maintained his innocence. The Hillsborough County State Attorney’s Office in 2020 concluded after a review that the conviction should be vacated.

A news release last year from the Innocence Project of Florida said DuBoise was imprisoned at age 18 and that his conviction was “based largely on the expert bite mark analysis testimony that is now known to be junk science, and unreliable, incentivized testimony from a jailhouse informant.”

After almost 40 years, DuBoise was exonerated, making him the 30th death-row exoneree in Florida.

Under the compensation, or claim, bill DeSantis approved Friday, the Legislature “acknowledge(d) that the state’s system of justice yielded an imperfect result that had tragic consequences in (DuBoise’s) case.”

“As a result of his physical confinement, Mr. DuBoise suffered significant damages that are unique to him, and that the damages are due to the fact that he was physically restrained and prevented from exercising the freedom to which all innocent citizens are entitled,” the bill said, adding that the state “apologizes to Mr. DuBoise.”

The legislation appropriated $1.85 million “from the General Revenue Fund to the Department of Financial Services” to DuBoise “for his wrongful incarceration.” 

Further, the bill waives tuition and fees for DuBoise “for up to a total of 120 hours of instruction at any career center,” “Florida College System institution,” or “state university.”

The $1.85 million equates to $50,000 for each year DuBoise was incarcerated.

The News Service of Florida provided background. This post was originally published on Tracking Florida's Death Penalty

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