Robert DuBoise spent more than three decades in a prison cell for a gruesome crime he did not commit before his release last year, on Sunday he’ll attend Super Bowl LV as a guest of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Robert DuBoise walked out of the Hardee Correctional Institution in August 2020 after a judge order his immediately release upon hearing the evidence used to convict him wasn’t credible. During another hearing a month later, a Hillsborough County Circuit judge cleared DuBoise’s record of all charges related to the case.
The 56-year-old was serving a life sentence, having been convicted in 1983 for the murder of 19-year-old Barbara Grams. She had been raped and beaten while walking home from her job at a Tampa mall.
DuBoise’s conviction centered on one piece of evidence: an alleged bite mark on the victim’s face. A jailhouse informant’s testimony also helped convict him.
A lawyer from the Innocence Project and a lawyer from the Hillsborough County Conviction Review Unit spoke during an online court hearing last August and addressed the false evidence that led to DuBoise’s conviction. Experts proved the mark wasn’t from a bite and the jailhouse informant was not credible.
“Robert knew the DNA would vindicate him,” Innocence Project lawyer Susan Friedman told The Associated Press last year. “Even though he was told over a decade ago that the biological evidence was destroyed, he wouldn’t give up.”
Along with assimilating to life as a free man, DuBoise also attended his first NFL football game last year and will be there this Sunday as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers take on the Kansas City Chiefs at Raymond James Stadium, according to NFL.com.
While a free ticket to nation’s most watched sporting event is a gift in and of itself, it’s more than that for several Bucs players who heard DuBoise’s story and wanted to do more.
Bucs offensive linemen Donovan Smith, Alex Cappa and Ali Marpet first spoke to DuBoise via Zoom last year after reading an ABC Action News story and a Tampa Bay Times article regarding the $1.8 million in compensation he would not receive for spending 37 years in prison due to a Florida law. In Florida, for every year spent wrongly in prison a person is entitled to $50,000, unless they have any prior convictions.
“My first thought after reading the story was I need to hear his opinions, his thoughts, hear his perspective,” Marpet told NFL Media.
Marpet, Cappa, Smith, along with fellow players Bradley Pinion, make up the Bucs Social Justice Player Board, which leads the team’s social justice initiative established in 2018.
According to ABC Action News, DuBoise received probation prior to his wrongful conviction for minor crimes. A statute in the Victims of Wrongful Incarceration Compensation law prevents a person from receiving compensation if they were previously convicted of more than one felony, even if it’s not a violent crime.
Another man freed recently with the help of the Innocence Project, Clemente Aguirre-Jarquin, has also been denied compensation because of Florida law’s filing deadline. Aguirre-Jarquin, who now lives in the Tampa area after spending 14 years on death row, was wrongfully convicted for the murders of two Seminole County women.
Marpet told NFL Media after hearing DuBoise’s story the players reached out to the Innocence Project to ask how they could help the 56-year-old.
Starting over with nothing, DuBoise told the NFL Network the Bucs gave him $25,000 and he’s continued to receive help from the Innocence Project. He used the money to purchase a truck that is providing his only income as a handyman.
The Innocence Project is a nonprofit dedicated to exonerating innocent people through DNA testing and reforming the criminal justice system. Their legal services are free to those they help.
The Innocence Project of Florida is working to change Florida’s wrongful conviction laws. According to the nonprofit, just five of 31 exonerated people have received compensation for their wrongful convictions since the Florida legislation became law in 2008.
Florida lawmakers are considering a bill to change the law for exonerees. The Innocence Project has started a petition for support.
Prior to the Super Bowl, the NFL Network highlighted the Bucs Social Justice Player Board’s work helping DuBoise figure out what’s next and the role the Innocence Project played in proving his innocence.
Watch the NFL Media video below:
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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