Exoneree Orlando Boquete to Return to Cuba for First Time in 37 Years
By Alicia Maule
Orlando Boquete at the 2017 Innocence Network Conference in San Diego, CA. Photo by Erin G. Wesley.
In 1980, Cuban refugee Orlando Boquete arrived to the United States by Mariel boatlift. Tragically, his newfound freedom and dreams of opportunity came to a halt when he was misidentified as one of two suspects who broke into a woman’s home in Stock Island, Florida, and sexually assaulted her. Boquete was wrongfully convicted of that crime and sentenced to 50 years in prison.
“I want to go back to my country because I left my son when he was 4 years old,” Boquete recently shared. “I want to see my family again and help the town devastated by Hurricane Irma.”
Orlando Boquete, right, with exoneree and friend Jeff Deskovic, at the the Brooklyn Half Marathon in 2016, which he ran without training.
Boquete’s story is remarkable in that he escaped prison two times–surviving barbed wire jumps and Florida’s gator infested waters–within a year of his wrongful conviction. He was on the run for 10 years, got caught and managed to run away again in 1995 for another year.
While watching the news in prison, Boquete learned that DNA technology had helped free an innocent man. He wrote to the Innocence Project in 2002 and filed his own motion for DNA testing in 2003 before he received representation from the Innocence Project in 2005.
With the help of Senior Staff Attorney Nina Morrison, Boquete was exonerated in 2006 after 13 years in prison but was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement for a few months before he was released.
Boquete has not received compensation from the state of Florida and he may never. For Boquete, his double escape from prison makes him ineligible as the law is currently written. For that reason, he has struggled financially since his exoneration, living on a meager social security income and bouncing from motel room to trailer to his car to sleep.
Orlando Boquete collecting supplies to take to his hometown in Cuba.
PLANS FOR CUBA
For nearly four decades, Boquete has dreamed of returning home to his town of Caibarién, where his son still lives. He especially was hoping to see his ill mother but was unable to return in time before she passed away. Now, with your support and the support of the Florida Innocence Project, Boquete may be able to finally take the trip home.
Upon his return, he plans to donate supplies, clothes and food to his community and to rebuild his son’s home, both of which were devastated by Hurricane Irma.
My client Orlando Boquete spent 25 years wrongly convicted before DNA proved his innocence. Can you chip in to help him visit his family in Cuba (and rebuild their home post-Irma) for first time in 37 yrs? @innocencehttps://t.co/faeoC4AlxM via @razoo
A new Broadway play, Lobby Hero, puts the tensions of our injustice American criminal justice system front and center. Read a compelling review of the play by guest blogger Innocence Project Staff Attorney Dana Delger.
“It makes you really wonder what would the feelings on exoneration be, and how many would we see, if there were more of these organizations,” said Barbara O’Brien, a law professor at Michigan State University and the editor of the registry.