Provision in Florida law prevents wrongly convicted man from receiving compensation for 37 years in jail

Robert DuBoise spent nearly four decades behind bars for a crime he did not commit. A judge cleared DuBoise of his convictions this week, but the Tampa man will not get any money from the state for the years he was wrongfully incarcerated.

DuBoise was just 18 when he was found guilty of the rape and murder of a Tampa teenager. He spent the next 37-years in prison.

DuBoise is now a free man, his conviction vacated and his name cleared. The 55-year-old says he’s ready to start living.

“First thing, get my license and then work,” DuBoise said.

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It's an undertaking he is doing all on his own. The state is not providing any financial support for the years of freedom unjustly stolen from DuBoise.

“All of those years lost there is no amount of money that can make up for that, but at least that would give him a start,” said Michelle Feldman, state campaigns director for the Innocence Project.

Under state law, DuBoise would have qualified for more than $1.8 million in compensation. However, he will get nothing thanks to a provision known as the “clean hands bar,”  which has been on the books since 2008. Exonerees with a prior, separate, unrelated criminal record are disqualified from being awarded compensation.

“He had these really minor crimes when he was a teenager, that is banning him from getting any money from the state of Florida for the 37 years that the state locked him up, and Florida is the only state in the country with that kind of ban,” Feldman said.

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The Innocence Project says the prior record stipulation and an unfair filing deadline are the reasons only five of 31 wrongfully convicted Floridians have received compensation over the last 12 years.

“They still have to prove their innocence to get that money, it’s not an easy process to begin with, but these two restrictions in the law make it impossible,” said Feldman.

It's a cruel reality for people like DuBoise who spent the prime of his life incarcerated for a crime he didn't even commit.

“There’s no way that money can heal those wounds, but it can definitely make life easier, and that’s really the very least that the state of Florida can do for him,” Feldman said.

The Innocence Project has been fighting to fix the compensation law. Its bill last session passed both the House and the Senate. The group plans to reintroduce the legislation this session, and is optimistic it will be passed in 2021.