TAMPA, Fla. - After spending nearly four decades behind bars for a crime he did not commit, Robert DuBoise is now suing the city of Tampa and the Tampa Police Department officers who allegedly framed him for rape and murder.
Robert DuBoise was 18 when he was found guilty of the rape and murder of a Tampa teenager. He spent the next 37 years in prison, finally being released in 2020 after his conviction was overturned and his name cleared.
"The DNA evidence conclusively shows that Robert is not the person who did this," said Dan Marshall, general counsel at the Human Rights Defense Center.
Marshall is one of the attorneys representing Robert. The legal team filed a 34-page civil lawsuit against the city of Tampa, four police officers involved in the 1983 investigation, and a forensic odontologist.
Robert’s wrongful conviction hinged on two main elements: an alleged bite mark on the victim’s cheek, and statements from two criminal informants. The complaint claims the detectives fabricated evidence and conspired with the dentist to pin the crime on Robert.
"This case is a prime example of what can go wrong when the police do not use proper procedures," Marshall said. "An innocent man goes to jail for decades."
Robert is now 56 years old and says he is not bitter about what happened to him. He just wants the broken system fixed, and people to be held responsible.
"If something isn't done to bring some kind of justice, then someone else is going to follow in their footsteps. And next thing you know, you're going to have somebody else's son get into death row for something they didn't do. So really, my goal is to try to ensure that this doesn't happen again," Robert said.
So far, the state has not provided any compensation for the years of freedom stolen from Robert. Typically, the wrongfully convicted are awarded $50,000 per year they were locked up. In Robert’s case, that’s $1.85-million. Florida lawmakers have started that process, but it can take years.
"It's not something that we feel we can rely on," said Marshall.
That is why the complaint seeks for a jury to determine how much compensation Robert should get.
"We feel this lawsuit is important to put a more realistic value on somebody's freedom for 37 years, for missing out on every important part of somebody's life. He hasn't been able to get married or have kids. He missed the death of his father," Marshall said.