In 1980, two men attacked a postal worker and locked her in the back of her mail truck. One of them then posed as a postal worker to gain them both entry to a jewelry store, which they robbed at gunpoint. One of the store’s owners saw the face of one of the robbers, whom he identified as Paul Courteau in a lineup and again at the trial.
Though the postal worker was unable to identify Courteau, an informant told the police that Courteau was the first robber to enter the store. The two identifications were enough to go forward with a trial. The jury convicted him of the robbery, and he was sentenced to fifteen years in prison.
After Courteau served his full sentence, prosecutors realized that a mob boss had recently confessed to the robbery. Courteau and this mob boss looked very similar. The mob boss testified in front of the Rhode Island Superior Court, and Courteau’s conviction was vacated.