Man wrongfully convicted of armed robbery freed after 8 years behind bars

‘I’m just a little overwhelmed with joy,’ Dustin Duty says

‘I’m just a little overwhelmed with joy,’ Dustin Duty says.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – After spending eight years behind bars, a man who was wrongly convicted of armed robbery walked out of jail on Wednesday as a free man.

Dustin Duty was released from the Duval County jail late Wednesday afternoon, ahead of his 37th birthday next week.

“I’m excited. I’m a little bit nervous, but I’m excited. I’m just a little overwhelmed with joy. I’d like to thank my legal team. Without them, I couldn’t have done it,” Duty told News4Jax.

News4Jax also spoke with Craig Trocino, director of the University of Miami Law Innocence Clinic, before Duty was released.

“He is thrilled. Obviously, he’s thrilled, and next week is his birthday, so he’ll be able to celebrate his birthday as a free man,” Trocino said.

In 2016, Duty reached out to the Florida Innocence Project and the University of Miami Law Innocence Clinic, hoping they would believe he didn’t commit the crime.

“We started investigating the case and discovered that there was a strong alibi and major problems with identification of Dustin as the perpetrator,” said Seth Miller, with the Innocence Project of Florida.

Detectives accused Duty of robbing a woman at knifepoint.

An interrogation video from 2013 shows Dustin Duty emphatically saying he did not rob a woman at knifepoint.

“I didn’t do it. I just don’t understand. What do I got to do to prove my innocence here? I mean, is there any way to prove my innocence?” he says.

In the video, Duty tells a detective there’s no way he could have committed the crime.

Duty: “I was at work all day I swear to God.”

Detective: “I know you were at work all day, and your boss dropped you off at I-10. The question is what happened from the time he dropped you off from the time that police got in contact with you?”

The detective begins to look at his nails, appearing uninterested as Duty continues to explain.

Detective: “Well, unfortunately for you, they brought people by to look at you, and they identified you as the person involved, and you also had a knife in your possession.”

Duty: “Where’s my boss at? I want my business card to get my boss. I want him down here. I didn’t f***** rob anybody.”

Duty continues to ask for his boss, who he says can prove his alibi. The detective tells him he will contact his boss, but he was never used in court.

In 2016, a motion was filed for a new trial.

It wasn’t until an evidentiary hearing in 2018 when Duty’s boss took the stand, confirming his alibi.

The victim also took the stand again.

“She actually testified at the evidentiary hearing, saying that she’s not 100 percent convinced that he was the guy and she’s not confident that she got the identification correct,” Trocino said.

Duty was adamant that he was innocent the entire time.

A disposition statement obtained by News4Jax points out that Duty was given a 20-year prison sentence. It states that the First District Court of Appeal reversed the conviction on three separate grounds: Failing to call an alibi witness, failure to properly impeach the lead detective, and by failing to move to suppress the defendant’s identification from a suggestive show-up.

The statement notes that at trial, the victim identified the perpetrator as a man wearing a grayish, light green sweatshirt, a read ball cap and cargo shorts. The victim said the perpetrator did not have a backpack.

The disposition statement further noted that when Duty was detained, he was shirtless and wearing a backpack and construction tool belt. It states that when law enforcement had him appear as he was when detained, the police had him remove his backpack and tool belt, and put on a white t-shirt.

When Duty was presented to the victim, the statement notes, the victim told police he looked “pretty close” to the person that robbed her. An officer told her to be sure, and she responded that she “can’t be sure, but, yes, it looks like the guy.”

Ultimately, the disposition notes an improbability of conviction if the case were to proceed to trial.

After he was released from jail, News4Jax asked him what kept him going.

“Just my faith in God and knowing that I have a family out there and knowing that one day that justice would prevail,” he said.

Duty said he’s looking forward to reuniting with his family one day in Ohio.

In the meantime, he said that he’s going to eat a bacon cheeseburger.

The groups that helped Duty said they are now going to help with transitional housing.

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