DNA evidence was the key that unlocked the door of a Florida prison cell for a man who served 17 years for a murder he maintains he didn’t commit.
Last Tuesday evening Dwight “D.D.” DuBose was released from Hillsborough County Jail to breathe the first free breath he’s drawn since his 2001 arrest for the murder of Fred Mobley Jr. The events started with the discovery of his lifeless body in mid-February of that year in an area widely known to be a haven for illicit drug sales.
Upon investigation, Hillsborough County authorities determined that Mobley was strangled, but no evidence at the scene pointed them in the direction of one person. However, they say Marcus Seymore, a man with a significant prior criminal history, approached them in an effort at clearing his name. He explained that rumors on the street were that he was responsible for the slaying, as he attempted to sell Mobley crack cocaine. Upon Mobley’s refusal, Seymore said he left but noticed another man attacking him. The assailant, who Seymore said was DuBose to him, placed Mobley in a stranglehold.
With little else to go on, investigators took Seymore at his word and began to build their case against DuBose. The only other evidence they could assemble was testimony from others, and the defense pointed out the deep character flaws of the witnesses arrayed against him. However, the jury believed Seymore, and DuBose was sentenced to life in prison for first-degree murder.
Seven years later, DuBose wrote to the Innocence Project, asking them to intercede and, in 2011, the organization did, filing a request for DNA testing. Another three years passed before the testing was complete, but it was well worth the wait – the DNA, which was harvested from under Mobley’s fingernails, belong to himself and one other person, not DuBose.
In 2017 Hillsborough Circuit Judge Lisa Campbell ruled that the evidence was sufficient to entitle DuBose to a new trial, but, fearing a new trial may yield the same results, his counsel negotiated with the state for a deal in which he would plead guilty to second-degree murder in exchange for a sentence of time already served.
Judge Campbell accepted the plea, and DuBose was released later that day. His first stop was his mother’s house, where he partook in his first home-cooked meal in 17 years.