TAMPA, Fla — Most of us can only imagine what life has been like for Robert Duboise.
“I’m still asking the same question 38 years later," he said, regarding his wrongful conviction.
Why was he the focus of a police investigation that led to a nearly four-decade stay in prison? Why was he convicted of a murder DNA has now proved he didn’t commit?
“They said the bite mark matched, which wasn’t even a bite mark at all, and then they said the jailhouse witness said that I told him I knew who did it. Complete lie," DuBoise said.
Human Rights Defense Center General Counsel Dan Marshall is now representing DuBoise in a case against the City of Tampa, several Tampa Police detectives who investigated Duboise at the time, as well as the odontologist who testified in court about what Marshall describes as the “self-proclaimed bite mark."
“DNA done correctly is solid, but beyond that, a lot of the scientific evidence they’re introducing into criminal trials is pretty weak," said Marshall.
That, along with an overreliance on jailhouse informants, has put people behind bars all over the country, Marshall said.
“They obviously have a lot of people who are incarcerated who are happy to say pretty much anything in order to shorten their own sentence and time in jail," he said.
Marshall said Duboise’s case is a good avenue to address these types of systemic issues.
“The only thing we wanna do is to help fix a broken system," said DuBoise.
Marshall said the lawsuit is about getting DuBoise compensation after being, “deprived of all the basic pleasures of human experience, which all free people enjoy as a matter of right.”
“I wasn’t able to have children, wife, a family, a house, you know all of these things that I really wanted. It just didn’t happen because of this," DuBoise said.
For nearly a year, he’s sought normalcy but even renting his own apartment hasn’t been easy.
“They want to know what past places you’ve lived in," he said. "if I give them the address that I was at, you think they’re really gonna wanna rent to me?”
Despite the challenges DuBoise said he’s has enjoyed time with his family and friends and hopes vindication comes in the form of change.
“I’m patient, it’s fine," he said, with a smile.
ABC Action News reached out to the City of Tampa and the Tampa Police Department — they told us they can’t comment on pending litigation. We also attempted to contact the individual detectives and odontologists, but couldn’t find solid contact information for all of them.