TAMPA — Dwight DuBose walked out of the Orient Road Jail on Tuesday night after trading an orange jumpsuit for a brand new polo shirt and slacks.
It was about 9 p.m. He flashed a broad smile and hugged staff members of the Innocence Project of Florida who helped secure his release.
Then, the 45-year-old former prison inmate headed over to his mom’s house for his first home-cooked meal in 17 years.
"It’s been a long time," he said. "I’m kind of nervous about going out there. We live in a fast society."
DuBose was released after DNA testing cast doubt on his guilt in a 2001 Tampa murder. Although he still maintains his innocence, he agreed Tuesday to plead guilty to a lesser charge of second-degree murder in exchange for a declaration of time served.
He said he felt it was in his best interest to take the deal, rather than risk being handed another life sentence if he were found guilty at a new trial.
His case centered on the Feb. 18, 2001 slaying of Fred Mobley Jr., 47, who was found strangled in a vacant lot in the Jackson Heights area of Tampa.
Although no physical evidence linked DuBose to the crime, a handful of witnesses said he was the perpetrator. He was sent to prison. Years later, the Innocence Project of Florida sought to test DNA from the victim’s fingernails.
When the results came back in 2014, they revealed that the DNA did not match DuBose.
New doubts about his guilt prompted Hillsborough Circuit Judge Lisa Campbell to order a new trial. The plea was negotiated before that could happen.
He headed home for a meal with his mother: pork chops, yellow rice, black beans and vanilla pudding. He went with his son and four grandchildren, whom he has never known outside prison walls.
DuBose said he doesn’t know what his future holds.
"Anything can change," he said.