Larry Bostic was exonerated 18 years after pleading guilty to a Fort Lauderdale, Florida, rape that DNA now proves he didn’t commit. He pled guilty to the crime to avoid a possible life sentence if convicted at trial, and finally brought about his own exoneration by filing a handwritten motion for DNA testing from prison.
At 4 a.m. on October 12, 1988, an African-American man with a knife attacked a 30-year-old woman as she returned home after using a payphone in Fort Lauderdale. The man led the woman to a secluded area behind a bar, where he forced her to remove her clothing and then raped her. He also stole $75 from a purse she was carrying, and then left the area.
The Identification and Guilty Plea
Police showed the victim a lineup of photographs of several men and she identified Bostic as the perpetrator. According to Bostic’s appellate attorney, the victim told an investigator in 2007 that she had never seen the perpetrator during the 1988 crime, but identified Bostic because she believed she had seen him in the neighborhood days before the crime.
Bostic was arrested and charged with sexual battery and robbery. In 1989, he pled guilty to these crimes and was sentenced to eight years in prison followed by five years probation. He has since stated in appeals that he was “coerced” to plead guilty by both the prosecutor and his court-appointed attorney because he would face a possible life sentence in a jury trial.
Bostic was released on probation after serving more than three years in prison, but was arrested nine months later for violating his probation. He pled to the violation of probation and was sentenced to an additional 17 years in prison.
In 2005, Bostic filed a handwritten motion from prison, requesting DNA testing on the victim’s underwear and a rape kit collected after the crime. Because Bostic pled guilty to the rape, the court dismissed his motion citing the prohibition on granting post-conviction DNA testing to whose entered a plea which was in place at that time. In 2006,after the Innocence Project of Florida was able to extend the right to post-conviction DNA testing to those who pled, Bostic again filed his handwritten motion. In June 2007, prosecutors agreed to conduct testing and sent the evidence to the Broward County Crime Lab for analysis. They received the results in August 2007: there were sperm cells on the vaginal swab in the rape kit, and the DNA profile of these cells did not match Bostic. Investigators interviewed the victim to confirm that she did not have other sexual partners in the days before the assault. She said she hadn’t, and prosecutors joined with Bostic’s appellate attorney in asking a Florida judge to dismiss the charges and vacate the convictions relating to the 1988 rape. By the time Bostic’s name was finally cleared on September 21, 2007, he was 51 years old.