Coy leads Hillsborough State Attorney’s Conviction Review Unit
'This position is vital and should be part of every prosecutor’s office — any wrongful conviction undermines our entire justice system and threatens public safety'
Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren hired Theresa Jean-Pierre Coy January 10 as supervising attorney for the office’s Conviction Review Unit.
Warren founded the Conviction Review Unit in November 2018 to identify, remedy, and prevent wrongful convictions.
“Ms. Coy brings a wealth of wisdom and a fantastic perspective to this position,” Warren said. “She knows how to get to the truth. She understands that our job is to seek justice, and that commitment to justice never ends — even if that means acknowledging we got it wrong in the past.”
Coy is a longtime leader in Tampa Bay’s legal community and recipient of multiple awards for professional and community service. Her background includes a broad range of experience as a civil attorney, private criminal defense attorney, assistant public defender, and adjunct professor at both her alma mater Stetson University College of Law in Gulfport and Cooley Law School in Riverview.
In the community, Coy has served as president of the George Edgecomb Bar Association, a member of the Mayor’s African American Advisory Council and many professional organizations in the legal field, and as both a hearing officer and Civil Service Board attorney for the City of Tampa. Coy earned her law degree from Stetson after graduating from Florida A&M University in 2002.
Coy, recipient of the Bar’s G. Kirk Haas Humanitarian Award in 2020, stepped away from her own private law practice in early that same year as she battled metastatic breast cancer. With her cancer now under control, she has emerged ready to step up to this new challenge.
“We all know that the justice system has had its flaws,” Coy said. “So the ability to be able to get into this and try to correct some of those errors — whether they were intentional or unintentional — is really a dream job for me and a great culmination of my life’s work so far.” Coy said. “There are only five units like this in the state, so to have a State Attorney’s Office that’s willing to be at the forefront of this is an amazing opportunity.”
Members of the general public, attorneys, and inmates can submit cases for review by Hillsborough’s Conviction Review Unit, or CRU. Since its founding just over four years ago, the CRU has reviewed 398 convictions. In nearly every case, according to Warren’s office, the review confirmed that the conviction was correct — however, CRU reviews have prompted prosecutors to seek reversals of wrongful convictions in three cases, including the case of Robert DuBoise, who spent nearly 37 years behind bars for a murder he did not commit.
The CRU also reviewed 220 cases connected with three former Tampa Police officers who were fired for a pattern of misconduct, resulting in requests to reverse 18 convictions that prosecutors could no longer support, according to Warren’s office.
“This position is vital and should be part of every prosecutor’s office — any wrongful conviction undermines our entire justice system and threatens public safety. If an innocent person is behind bars, that means the guilty person is still out there,” Warren said.
Assistant State Attorney Teresa Hall served as the CRU’s initial supervising attorney. Hall has continued to oversee the CRU while transitioning to another leadership role as division chief for one of the office’s Felony divisions.