Another Florida Man Done Wrong by Doing the Wrong Time Won’t See Compensation Due to Stipulation in Florida Law

October 13, 2021 Criminal Defense

Yet another Florida man is released after serving time for a crime he didn’t commit. Robert DuBoise should be happy about the freedom from his extended stint in prison, but instead feels that he has a debt that needs to be paid. The blame of this debt is being placed on the police who were in charge of the investigation, as well as the entire city of Tampa.

Robert was released from prison on August 27th, 2020 after new DNA testing from the victim’s rape kit excluded him as guilty and identified the person who had actually committed the crime. DuBoise is attempting to receive compensation for being locked away for a crime he was proven not-guilty for.

After filing for his compensation, DuBoise should ideally qualify to receive compensation for his wrongfully served time. He could get more than $1.8 million from the state if it goes through. DuBoise, who is now 55-years-old, believes that he is entitled to the money as his entire life had been taken away from him.

What Was the Case?

Robert DuBoise was accused and convicted of the rape and murder of a Tampa teen in 1983, which resulted in his 37 year-long stint in prison.

The case involved 19-year-old Barbara Grams, who was forcibly raped and beaten to death on her way home from work. DuBoise was only 18-years-old at the time. Investigators took a particular interest in a circular wound on Grams’ cheek which was believed to be a bite mark. The evidence that was against DuBoise was that the bite mark supposedly matched him.

The forensic dentist that helped lead to DuBoise’s conviction was Dr. Richard Souviron. Sounds familiar? Souviron is known as the person who helped lead authorities to Ted Bundy’s conviction in the 1979 killing of Lisa Levy based on the bite mark that was left on her back side. However in the decades after Bundy’s conviction, experts have stopped using bitemarks to identify suspects. With DuBoise’s case, he claims that Souviron and authorities knowingly fabricated the evidence used to convict him.

Daniel Marshall, a Human Rights Defense Center attorney representing DuBoise claims that the supposed bite mark wasn’t a human bit mark at all. He further claims that this evidence was made in conspiracy with Dr. Souviron, and the detectives K.E. Burke, John Counsman, and Sergeant R.H. Price. Now the complaint has been filed with the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.

Right before DuBoise’s trial, Souvrion gave a speech at the International Association of Chiefs of Police that supports Marshall’s claims. During the speech Souvrion said, “If you tell me that is the guy that did it, I will go into Court and say that is the guy that did it. If the detectives say he did it, I am going to go in there and say he did it.”

Souviron had created a mold of Duboise’s teeth out of beeswax. In the lawsuit, the attorney argues that it was scientifically unreliable, and that no forensic odontologist or reasonable dentist in 1983 would have bought that a beeswax molding constituted a reliable basis for identifying or excluding murder suspects. Now years later, with the press of DuBoise’s release, Souviron spoke to the Tampa Bay Times: “From a human point of view, of course, I feel terrible, I played a part in his conviction. There’s no question I feel terrible.” Souviron has also said he would not testify with the same certainty as he did back in the first court dates of 1985.

To read about Robert DuBoise’s original case, click here.

Now the lawsuit has been filed with the Human Rights Defense Center, which is a nonprofit organization to help advocate for incarcerated people. The basis of the claim is the deprivation of due process, illegal detention and prosecution, and conspiracy to deprive constitutional rights. Even though it seems like DuBoise has a strong case, the claims bill does not appear to be moving at all. There is also the issue of the Clean Hands law, which could prevent DuBoise from receiving compensation money.

What is the “Clean Hands” Law?

The Fla. Statute 961.01 goes over the victims of wrongful incarceration compensation. The statute defines the following characteristics:

  • A “wrongfully incarcerated person” – A person whose felony conviction and sentence has been vacated by a court of competent jurisdiction, and is the subject of an order issued by the original sentencing court pursuant to the finding that the accused person didn’t commit the crime. The person did not abet, aid, or act as an accomplice or an accessory a person who committed the act or offense.
  • “Entitled to Compensation” – A person has met the definition of the term “eligible for compensation” and satisfies the application requirements prescribed in 961.05, and can receive compensation pursuant to 961.06.

In 2008, Florida Legislature passed the Victims of Wrongful Incarceration Act, which is designed to compensate those wrongly accused of a crime. It is set to pay for every year the falsely accused inmate served in Florida, from $50,000 per year up to ten years, equaling up to $2 million dollars. The catch? The act is only meant for those with “clean hands,” meaning they had no prior felony charges.

A wrongly accused defendant will not be eligible for the compensation if the following characteristics apply:

  • The person pled guilty or was convicted of any felony offense during the wrongful incarceration;
  • The person was also serving a sentence for another felony which he or she was not wrongfully convicted of while in incarceration; or
  • The person pled guilty or was convicted of any felony offense before the wrongful incarceration, regardless of adjudication.

You can read more about Compensation of Victims of Wrongful Incarceration in our blog post here.

In a statement by Michelle Feldman, Campaign Director at the Innocence Project, stressed the issue of the law: “Florida’s compensation law is the only one in the country that bar is exoneree’s if they have any prior convictions.”

Under the current compensation law, DuBoise would be unable to receive the money since he was previously convicted of minor offenses as a teenager, including stealing a bike and entering an abandoned home that was unlocked.

People who have prior charges are more easily targeted for wrongful convictions. DuBoise is a perfect example of this situation. There is an injustice within the law for assuming that someone with a previous conviction is guilty for another crime.

Response to the “Clean Hands” Law

Since the law was passed in 2018, only five out of thirty-one released prisoners who were wrongfully convicted received the compensation. The law also specifies a time frame to file for, which seems to be almost impossible for many convicted Floridians. A man named Clemente Aguirre is one of these people.

Aguirre is a client of the Innocence Project, a non-profit organization established in 2003 to help innocent prisoners gain their freedom and start to rebuild their lives.

The mission of the Innocence Project is included in the following:

  • Investigate cases where innocent claims are identified;
  • Secure DNA testing when biological evidence exists;
  • Advocates for the exoneration or release of not guilty persons whose case presents innocence based on evidence;
  • Provides aftercare services to help newly released people an easy transition; and
  • Advocates for the necessary criminal justice reform to avoid the wrongful incarcerations in the future.

Aguirre was in the process of a retrial for the same crime he was charged for. He was waiting in jail when the law specified that he needed to file to receive compensation. There was nothing he could have done except wait for the retrial, and then the DNA evidence later exonerated Aguirre so it cancelled out the retrial altogether.

The Innocence Project is working towards changing the law, with their first attempt in 2020. Feldman explains that the attempted law change passed six committees unanimously, but was unable to reach the floor votes. The plan is to reintroduce the proposal again this year, with hopes of getting rid of the “clean hands” bar altogether. They also wish to change the issue with filing deadlines to align with the exoneration process.

Where Does this Leave DuBoise?

Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren gave the following statement regarding DuBoise’s case: “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 have the truth, justice is done.”

As for DuBoise, he has to wait and see what will happen with the compensation money he rightfully deserves. For now, he is relishing in the freedom of release and being reunited with family. On the day of his release, DuBoise gave this statement:

“I never lost faith that today would come. Now the world knows DNA proves I did not commit this crime. To walk out of this nightmare and hug my mother and sister after almost four decades, knowing I was innocent is bittersweet. 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.”

Find an Attorney for Wrongful Incarceration

As shown through the Robert DuBoise case, a wrongful incarceration can take away the lives and the potential of a defendant who has been placed behind bars. If you or a loved one has been wrongfully incarcerated, it is of utmost importance to reach out to an experienced attorney. The attorneys at Pumphrey Law Criminal Defense have the time and knowledge necessary to fight for the rights of those who have been wrongfully incarcerated. With the addition of the Florida Clean Hands provision, it can make it difficult to receive the well-deserved compensation for a wrongful incarceration. Robert DuBoise is an example of a case that has a light ending, meaning his freedom. However, at what cost? Spending over 30 years in prison and potentially not receiving his earned compensation. Call Don Pumphrey and his team at (850) 681-7777 to receive your free consultation and get started on your case.

Written by Karissa Key

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