On this day eight years ago, Orlando Boquete regained his rightful status as a free and innocent man after spending 13 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. With the assistance of the Innocence Project, Orlando was finally able to secure an exoneration for a rape he did not commit and restore the justice which had been denied to him.
It was June 25, 1982 when a Stock Island, Florida woman was sexually assault in her bedroom by a bald, Latino man with no shirt. Within minutes of the incident police had stopped a group of Latino men for questioning at a nearby convenience store. Within that group of Latino men, there was only one who meet the description of being shirtless and bald – Orlando Boquete. He was taken into custody and later “identified” by the victim, while sitting in a patrol car parked 20 feet away. Despite Orlando’s solid alibi of having been at home with his family at the time of the crime, his identification by the victim proved to be enough for a conviction and 50-year sentence.
However, Orlando was quite determined to not have years of his life robbed away for a crime he did not commit. In 1983 he escaped from prison and spent 10 years avoiding the punishment which had been wrongly assigned to him. Unfortunately, his freedom was once again cut short when he was apprehended and re-incarcerated in the early 90s. In 2003 he filed a motion to have DNA from the crime tested for the first time. In 2005 the DNA results proved that the assailant was not Orlando Boquete and he had been wrongfully convicted. He was exonerated on May 23, 2006 and was released from custody on August 22nd of the same year.
We spoke to Orlando for the writing this post, and he was happy to report that things have been going well in his post-exoneration life. He is currently living in the Naples area, where he is enjoying his long-deserved freedom. Currently, he is working on obtaining U.S. citizenship, as well as his much-deserved compensation for the years he spent wrongfully imprisoned.
In his free time he enjoys spending time around athletes and being in an environment which supports athletics. At the time of our phone call he was very excited to be supporting a friend and fellow Cuban athlete who was preparing for an upcoming sporting event. On a less happy note (but one that highlights the long-term impact of wrongful convictions), he stated that while he was happy about his upcoming anniversary, he will not be able to truly celebrate until he is once again able to see his family in Cuba. Sadly, due largely to his conviction and issues relating to it, Orlando has not been able to see his family for 35 years. However, he was very excited about the fact that he will be moving to Tallahassee in a month. He stated that he is making the move to be closer to the Innocence Project of Florida, whom he calls “his family”.
We are truly happy for Orlando and we are very excited to celebrate the anniversary of justice being restored in his life.