Robert DuBoise spent nearly 37 years behind bars based on fabricated evidence before DNA finally cleared him
TAMPA – Robert DuBoise, put behind bars at age 18 and eventually served three of his 37 years imprisonment on Florida’s death row, today sued the City of Tampa, four police officers and an “expert” for falsifying evidence so as to wrongfully convict him of murder.
From the day of his arrest through his release 37 years later, DuBoise consistently professed his innocence. The only physical evidence against him was faked “bite mark” evidence that allegedly pointed to DuBoise as the culprit. The scientific validity of bite marks as evidence has been thoroughly discredited in recent years, and in DuBoise’s case, the bite marks on the victim turned out to not even be produced by a human.
Dentist and self-proclaimed bite mark evidence expert Richard R. Souviron claimed that a gap in the teeth marks on the deceased matched DuBoise’s teeth, even though a contemporaneous police photo showed no such gap in DuBoise’s teeth. Even after dental records revealed this clear inconsistency, Souviron testified under oath to this phony match.
Before DuBoise’s trial, Souviron had already proclaimed a baldly pro-prosecution bias at an International Association of Chiefs of Police conference, saying “If you [police] tell me that is the guy that did it, I will go into Court and say that is the guy that did it,” and “If the detectives say he did it, I am going to go in there and say he did it.”
Knowing that their physical evidence was poor at best, the defendant officers allegedly then conspired to get two informants, including one suspect facing a long-term sentence for unrelated crimes, to turn state’s evidence. One suspect falsely claimed that DuBoise confessed the murder to him, but his story changed significantly in various recountings. This witnesses allegedly failed a polygraph test, but that and other exculpatory evidence was suppressed by the defendant officers.
At trial, the sum total of the evidence against DuBoise was the “bite mark” identification and the informant testimony—all of which was fabricated by the defendants.
On March 7, 1985 a jury found DuBoise guilty and unanimously recommended life imprisonment, but a notoriously harsh judge, “Hangin’ Harry” Lee Coe sentenced him to death in the electric chair. While he avoided execution, DuBoise was falsely branded a rapist and murderer. During his decades of maximum security imprisonment, he witnessed stabbings and killings of other inmates, and was himself the victim of violence, including an attempted murder.
But he never gave up on winning his freedom and reputation back, filing his own legal motions and peppering advocates and attorneys around the country with letters asking them to take up his case. In 2018 The Innocence Project and its attorneys did just that.
Finally, in 2020, critical DNA evidence that was believed to have been lost was uncovered. DNA testing conclusively proved Mr. DuBoise’s innocence and identified the real killer(s)—people with no connection to Mr. DuBoise. As a result, he was released from Hardee Correctional Institution in Bowling Green, FL on August 27, 2020, a day after prosecutors dropped their case against him. On September 14, 2020 he was finally exonerated of the crimes.
The second youngest of five siblings, at the time of his 1983 arrest, DuBoise had dropped out of Tampa’s Plant High School to support his parents by working in an auto upholstery shop with the hope that he could eventually return to school and earn his diploma. During his long incarceration he lost his father and many aunts, uncles, nieces, and cousins. Today he works as a home renovator and repairer.
Mr. DuBoise is represented by Daniel Marshall and Jesse Isom of the Lake Worth, FL-based Human Rights Defense Center and Jon Loevy, Gayle Horn, Heather Lewis Donnell and John Hazinski of the Chicago-based civil rights law firm Loevy & Loevy Attorneys at Law.
The Human Rights Defense Center is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that advocates on behalf of the human rights of people held in U.S. detention facilities. Loevy & Loevy is one of the nation’s largest civil rights law firms and has won more multi-million-dollar jury verdicts than any other civil rights law firm in the country.
A copy of the suit, Robert DuBoise v. City of Tampa, Richard R. Souviron, Det. Phillip Saladino, Det. K.E. Burke, the Estate of Det. John Counsman, and Sgt. R.H. Price, case no. 8:21-cv-02328, can be found here.