Jacksonville book ‘Seen’ is inspired by Brenton Butler wrongful arrest

Jacksonville author Julie Delegal is shown with her newly published fiction book, "Seen," at San Marco Books and More. The novel is inspired by the 2000 Brenton Butler case in Jacksonville, in which a 15-year-old boy confessed to the murder of a Georgia tourist, then claimed the confession was coerced due to police brutality. A jury quickly acquitted him at trial, and two men were later convicted of the murder.

Julie Delegal’s novel, “Seen,” is set in a fictional city much like Jacksonville, though somewhat smaller, which she calls Beau Rêve. If she were to locate it on a map, it would be right around where Palatka is in reality.

The story that inspired “Seen” is, however, quite real: the case of Brenton Butler, a Jacksonville teen who in 2000 was arrested in the murder of a Georgia tourist, though he soon claimed his confession was coerced with force by police. After he spent months in prison, a jury deliberated less than an hour before acquitting him.

A French film crew made a documentary on the case, “Murder on a Sunday Morning,” which went on to win the Oscar for best documentary in 2001. With such exposure and intense local media coverage, the arrest drew much unflattering attention to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.

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