DNA evidence clears Florida man held for 37 years for rape, murder, says prosecutor

DNA evidence cleared a Florida man held in prison for 37 years for the rape and murder of a 19-year-old, Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren announced on Wednesday.

Warren said the evidence, which was thought to be lost, proved that Robert Duboise, 55, did not commit the 1983 rape and murder of Barbara Grams. Warren’s conviction review unit teamed up with the Innocence Project, based in New York, on an 11-month investigation that resulted in the rediscovery of DNA evidence. 

“This is painful and tragic,” the prosecutor said during a press conference. “But it’s the truth, and when you tell the truth, justice is done.”

In 1983, Grams was attacked and beaten with a wood beam while walking home from her job at a shopping mall, the Tampa Bay Times reported

The Innocence Project proposed that the office look into Duboise’s case last September, Warren said, and his unit uncovered a rape kit stored at the Hillsborough County Medical Examiner’s Office this year after all evidence was thought to be destroyed.

The test results determined Duboise and two other people implicated by a jailhouse informant were not involved. But the DNA did match two other people, including one who is now a person of interest, Warren said without identifying them to the public. 

Warren noted that the evidence used in Duboise’s conviction included testimony from a forensic dentist who conducted a bite mark analysis. The scientific community has since determined that bite mark analysis can be unreliable, and a dental expert contacted by the Innocence Project said the mark might not have been from a bite at all.

The other evidence used against Duboise during his trial was the testimony from the jailhouse informant who said Duboise had admitted to raping Grams while two other men beat her. 

“This new DNA evidence clearly refutes his testimony,” Warren said. 

Duboise was originally sentenced to death before his sentence was reduced to life in prison, according to the Tampa Bay Times. 

Warren said his office has requested that a judge resentence Duboise to time served to allow him to leave prison. Duboise is currently being held at Hardee Correctional Institution in Bowling Green.

Tags DNA DNA evidence Florida Innocence Project wrongful conviction
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