Robert DuBoise, who spent the last 37 years in prison on a rape and murder charge, is now a free man after dramatic new evidence proved his innocence, the Hillsborough State Attorney’s Office said. DuBoise was charged with the murder of 19-year-old Barbara Grams, who was found beaten to death behind a dental practice in 1983.
He was convicted by a jury based on reconstructed bite marks that the prosecution argued matched his teeth. A jailhouse informant also testified against him, claiming DuBoise told him that two other men had murdered Grams, while DuBoise raped her.
The state’s theory at trial was that DuBoise and two others sexually assaulted and killed the victim, though only DuBoise was arrested and prosecuted for these crimes.
On Thursday, DuBoise, now 55, walked out of the Hardee Correctional Institution in Bowling Green, Florida a free man, after a Tampa judge approved his release.
The news was announced Wednesday by Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren, who said that a conviction review determined that DuBoise was not guilty of the murder of Grams.
"I never lost faith that today would come. Now the world knows DNA proves I did not commit this crime," DuBoise said in a story published by the Innocence Project. "To walk out of this nightmare and hug my mother and sister after almost four decades, knowing I was innocent is bittersweet."
DuBoise said he had “no bitterness at all."
“I don’t have room in my life for bitterness,” he said as he was greeted by his mother, Myra DuBoise, sister, Harriet, and Innocence project attorney Susan Friedman. “If you keep hatred and bitterness in your heart, it just steals your joy from everything else.”
The Innocence Project, a national nonprofit whose mission is to free wrongfully incarcerated people, got involved in Boise's case in 2018. It was thought that all the evidence had been destroyed in 1990 until an attorney in the charge of the unit discovered old DNA samples from a rape kit that had been stored at the Hillsborough County Medical Examiner’s Office. A recent test of those samples revealed they did not match DuBoise's, the Times reported.
According to Warren, the DNA was from the two other men, one of whom is now a person of interest in the case.
DuBoise originally was sentenced to death, but his penalty was reduced to a life sentence on appeal. Before the news of his release, DuBoise said he had long exhausted his efforts to appeal his case. His only hope was parole, The Tampa Bay Times reported.
“He practically went from high school to death row,” Friedman said.
Earlier this month, when DuBoise was told about the new DNA samples and later found out he was exonerated, he said he still wasn’t sure it would happen. “After all these years, you have to wonder if they’re going to throw another curve in there somewhere,” he said.
Expressing gratitude, he thanked the people who found the new evidence.
“I'm not the only one,” he said as he encouraged others to support groups like the Innocence Project.
"I can never regain the birthdays, holidays, and precious time I lost with them, never mind the life I could have made for myself. I am grateful to be here, now with a chance to move forward, but I know there are more innocent people like me still behind bars," he said.
Regarding the person who is responsible for the crime, DuBoise replied: “I hope God has mercy on his soul,” he said. “I’m not his judge.”
In an article published in by the Innocence Project, Warren, the State Attorney, said, "wrongful convictions erode the foundation of our justice system."
"For 37 years, we've had an innocent man locked up in prison - while the real perpetrator was never held accountable for this heinous crime. The family of the victim deserves to have the truth, as painful as it may be. And, when you tell the truth, justice is done," he said.
When DuBoise was asked by a reporter what is the first thing he would like to do now that he is a free man, he said he already did it.
“I hugged my mom.”