A Florida man and an Arkansas woman, convicted of murder in separate cases involving junk science and prosecutorial misconduct, have been exonerated, decades after being wrongfully capitally prosecuted.

Hillsborough Circuit Judge Christopher Nash dismissed all charges against former Florida death-row prisoner Robert DuBoise on September 14, 2020, granting a motion filed by the office of State Attorney Andrew Warren. The motion was the culmination of an investigation by Warren’s Conviction Integrity Unit, the Innocence Project, and the Innocence Project of Florida, which found that DuBoise’s conviction had been the product of scientifically invalid bite-mark testimony, false testimony by a prison informant, and the prosecution’s failure to disclose favorable treatment the informant had received for his testimony. DuBoise had been convicted in 1983 and sentenced to death after his trial judge overrode the jury’s unanimous recommendation for a life sentence. The Florida Supreme Court ruled in 1988 that the trial court had improperly disregarded the jury’s sentencing recommendation, and resentenced DuBoise to life in prison.

Several days earlier, on September 10, a Dallas County, Arkansas judge granted a motion filed by the 13th Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney seeking dismissal of all charges against Tina Jimerson (pictured with members of her defense team from the Center on Wrongful Convictions). Her exoneration followed a unanimous federal appeals court ruling in April 2020 finding that her trial prosecutor — now a justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court — had knowingly withheld and destroyed exculpatory evidence in her case.

DuBoise’s Wrongful Conviction and Death Sentence

DuBoise was wrongfully incarcerated for 37 years. He was released August 27, 2020, one day after Hillsborough prosecutors and the innocence lawyers presented Circuit Judge Christopher Nash with evidence that not only had the scientific community repudiated the type of bite-mark identification testimony offered in his case, but a review of the autopsy photographs had shown that there had been no bite mark in the first place. The parties also presented the court with DNA evidence from an untested rape kit that excluded DuBoise and implicated two other men. At that time, Judge Nash reduced DuBoise’s sentence to time served and scheduled a September 14 hearing date for the disposition of the charges against him.

In dismissing the charges, Judge Nash told DuBoise, “This court has failed you for 37 years. … I think it would be reasonable for you to feel a lot of resentment and bitterness about those 37 years. But you instead seem to have an uncommon capacity for grace and forgiveness. … I wish you happiness going forward.”

DuBoise became the 30th former death-row prisoner exonerated in Florida since 1973, and the 172nd death-row exoneree nationwide in that period. He is the fifth former death-row prisoner exonerated in 2020. Data is available on the jury vote in 24 of Florida’s death-row exonerations. DuBoise case is the 22nd in which jurors did not unanimously vote for death.

Jimerson’s Wrongful Capital Prosecutions

Jimerson, along with co-defendants John Brown, Jr., and Reginald Early were capitally tried for the 1988 murder of Myrtle Holmes by then-deputy Prosecuting Attorney Robin Wynne. Wynne, who became a justice on the Arkansas Supreme Court in 2015, also charged the men with rape. A fourth suspect, an intellectually impaired man named Charlie Vaughn, confessed and pleaded guilty to first-degree murder to avoid the threat of a death sentence.

No physical evidence linked Brown, Vaughn, or Jimerson to the crime. Vaughn implicated Early and Brown as his accomplices in raping and murdering the victim and implicated Jimerson as the getaway driver. Six members of the jury voted to acquit after DNA evidence contradicted Vaughn’s false confession and excluded him and Brown from the rape. On retrial, Wynne dropped the rape charges and reprosecuted the capital murder charges, and Jimerson and her co-defendants were convicted and sentenced to life.

In 2014, the Center on Wrongful Convictions at the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law (CWC) discovered that the Dallas County sheriff had intentionally planted an informant in the same jail cell as Vaughn and that the informant had secretly recorded statements from Vaughn. CWC investigators were able to identify and contact the informant, who confirmed that he had told Vaughn he would face execution if he didn’t implicate the other defendants. Wynne falsely responded to a pre-trial discovery request by stating he had “no knowledge of any informant who led to or assisted in making the arrest in this matter,” and police omitted any reference to the informant from their records of the case. Wynne subsequently had the tapes destroyed.

In September 2018, an Arkansas federal district court granted Jimerson a new trial, finding that Wynne had withheld and destroyed exculpatory evidence. On April 29, 2020, a unanimous three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision based on what it called Wynne’s “bad faith” misconduct. The appeals court wrote that Wynne and law enforcement had “worked together to intentionally conceal [the recording’s] existence from the defense,” “effectively concealed the fact that a recorded conversation took place,” and destroyed the recording. It also wrote that Wynne provided “untruthful answers” to the defendants’ requests seeking disclosure of all recordings, actively preventing the defendants from learning about it.

In an emailed statement following the exoneration, the Center for Wrongful Convictions said “Tina was sentenced to life for a 1988 robbery and murder that she did not commit, having become a suspect after reporting her own rape by a white man to the police. She ultimately was implicated by a mentally challenged man who was coerced to make incriminating statements by a jailhouse informant.” Jimerson spent 32 years wrongfully imprisoned prior to her release.


Dan Sullivan, An exon­er­at­ed man adjusts to life in Tampa after 37 years away, Tampa Bay Times, September 13, 2020; Dan Sullivan, Convictions void­ed in Tampa mur­der exon­er­a­tion case, Tampa Bay Times, September 14, 2020; Email, Tina Jimerson Exonerated!, Center on Wrongful Convictions, September 142020.

Photo cred­it: Center on Wrongful Convictions