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‘Major development’ expected in Tampa exoneration case

A Thursday news conference relates to the case of Robert DuBoise, an innocent man who spent 37 years in prison after a wrongful conviction for a 1983 murder.
From left: Attorney Susan Friedman with the Innocence Project, her client, Robert DuBoise, State Attorney Andrew Warren and attorney Teresa Hall, are pictured at a 2020 news conference following a hearing to exonerate DuBoise after he was released from prison, where he served 37 years for a crime he did not commit.
From left: Attorney Susan Friedman with the Innocence Project, her client, Robert DuBoise, State Attorney Andrew Warren and attorney Teresa Hall, are pictured at a 2020 news conference following a hearing to exonerate DuBoise after he was released from prison, where he served 37 years for a crime he did not commit. [ MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | Times ]
Published Aug. 3|Updated Aug. 4

Editor’s note: The Hillsborough County State Attorney’s Office canceled a news conference that was scheduled to take place Thursday to announce a “major development” in this case following Gov. Ron DeSantis’ announcement that he was removing State Attorney Andrew Warren for not prosecuting certain crimes. Warren later announced plans to hold a news conference on his own to provide the case update.

TAMPA — Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren will announce a “major development” Thursday related to the case of Robert DuBoise, who was exonerated in 2020 after serving 37 years in prison for a murder he did not commit.,

Warren’s office will hold a news conference Thursday afternoon to discuss the development, but there is no public word about what the news will be.

The announcement likely relates to a renewed investigation into the death of Barbara Grams, who was attacked, raped and murdered the night of Aug. 18, 1983, as she walked home from her job at a Tampa shopping mall. Her body was found the next morning in a yard behind a dental office on N Boulevard in Tampa Heights.

Barbara Grams appears in a photograph provided by the Hillsborough State Attorney's Office.
Barbara Grams appears in a photograph provided by the Hillsborough State Attorney's Office. [ Hillsborough State Attorney's Office ]

Detectives fixated on a wound to Grams’ cheek, which they believed was a bite mark. They identified several people they considered suspects and took molds of their teeth.

Related: An exonerated man adjusts to life in Tampa after 37 years away

DuBoise was among them. A forensic dentist opined that his teeth made the mark. A jury found DuBoise guilty and a judge sentenced him to death. The sentence was later reduced to life in prison.

More than three decades later, a lawyer for the New York-based Innocence Project submitted DuBoise’s case for review to the conviction review unit in the Hillsborough State Attorney’s Office. Warren established the unit in his office in 2018 to screen claims of innocence in old cases.

The petition noted that the bite mark evidence is now regarded as unreliable.

Most evidence in DuBoise’s case by 2020 had been destroyed. But conviction review attorney Teresa Hall located old slides from a rape kit taken during the Grams murder investigation, which had been stored at the Hillsborough medical examiner’s office.

When tested, the slides revealed DNA that did not match DuBoise. Another dentist also opined that the mark on Grams’ cheek was not a bite mark at all.

The state secured DuBoise’s release from prison and a judge threw out his conviction.

Robert DuBoise shakes hands with State Attorney Andrew Warren at the conclusion of a news conference held by the Innocence Project and the state attorney following a hearing to exonerate DuBoise after he was released from prison, where he served 37 years for a crime he did not commit.
Robert DuBoise shakes hands with State Attorney Andrew Warren at the conclusion of a news conference held by the Innocence Project and the state attorney following a hearing to exonerate DuBoise after he was released from prison, where he served 37 years for a crime he did not commit. [ MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | Times ]

Since then, police and prosecutors have quietly re-investigated Grams’ murder.

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The DNA tests, which showed DuBoise was innocent, revealed a match to two other men. One of them, Warren said in 2020, was then considered a person of interest.

The State Attorney’s Office has not publicly named that person, but has said that he is not a threat to the public.

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