Fiction publisher

Conviction overturned in 1981 for rape of author Alice Sebold

A rape conviction at the center of a memoir by award-winning author Alice Sebold was overturned due to what authorities determined were serious flaws in the 1982 prosecution and concerns the wrong man had been sent to jail .

Anthony Broadwater, who spent 16 years in prison, was cleared Monday by a judge of the rape of Sebold while she was a student at Syracuse University, an assault she discussed in her 1999 memoir, “Lucky.” .

Broadwater trembled with emotion, sobbing as his head fell into his hands, as the Syracuse judge overturned his conviction at the request of prosecutors.

“I have cried tears of joy and relief over the past few days,” Broadwater, 61, told The Associated Press on Tuesday. “I’m so elated, the cold can’t even keep me cold.”

Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick told state Supreme Court Judge Gordon Cuffy at the hearing that the Broadwater lawsuit was an injustice, the Post-Standard of Syracuse reported. .

“I’m not going to mess this up by saying, ‘I’m sorry. It’s not enough, ”Fitzpatrick said. “It should never have happened.”

Sebold, 58, wrote in “Lucky” that she was raped as a freshman in Syracuse in May 1981, then spotted a black man on the street months later that she was sure she was. his attacker.

“He was smiling as he approached. He recognized me. It was for him a walk in the park; he had met an acquaintance on the street, ”wrote Sebold, who is white. “Hey, girl,” he said. “Don’t I know you from somewhere?” “”

She said she didn’t respond, “I looked at him directly. I knew his face had been the face above me in the tunnel.

Sebold went to the police, but she did not know the man’s name and a first sweep of the area failed to locate him. An officer suggested the man on the street must have been Broadwater, who was reportedly seen in the area. Sebold gave Broadwater the pseudonym Gregory Madison in his book.

After Broadwater’s arrest, however, Sebold failed to identify him in a police line, choosing another man as his attacker because “the expression in his eyes told me that if we were alone, s ‘there was no wall between us, he would call me by my name and then kill me.

Broadwater was nonetheless tried and convicted in 1982 based largely on two pieces of evidence. On the witness stand, Sebold identified him as his rapist. And an expert said microscopic hair analysis linked Broadwater to the crime. This type of analysis has since been considered an undesirable science by the US Department of Justice.

“Sprinkle unwanted science on a misidentification, and that’s the perfect recipe for a wrongful conviction,” Broadwater lawyer David Hammond told The Post-Standard.

Messages to Sebold seeking comment were sent through his publisher and literary agency.

Broadwater remained on the New York sex offender registry after completing his prison term in 1999.

Broadwater, who worked as a garbage trucker and handyman in the years following his release from prison, told the AP that the rape conviction had hurt his job prospects and his relationships with his friends and members of his family.

Even after marrying a woman who believed in his innocence, Broadwater never wanted to have children.

“We had a big argument sometimes about the kids, and I told him that I could never, ever allow children to come into this world with a stigma on my back,” he said.

In addition to “Lucky”, Sebold is the author of the novels “The Lovely Bones” and “The Almost Moon”.

“The Lovely Bones,” about the rape and murder of a teenage girl, won the American Booksellers Association’s Book of the Year Award for Adult Fiction in 2003 and was adapted into a film starring Saoirse Ronan , Susan Sarandon and Stanley Tucci.

“Lucky” was also being filmed, and it was thanks to the film project itself that Broadwater’s conviction was overturned after four decades.

Tim Mucciante, who has a production company called Red Badge Films, had signed on as executive producer on the adaptation but became skeptical of Broadwater’s guilt when the first draft of the script came out because it differed so much from the book.

“I started digging around and trying to figure out what really happened here,” Mucciante told the AP on Tuesday.

Mucciante said that after dropping out of the project earlier this year, he hired a private investigator, who put him in touch with Hammond, of Syracuse-based CDH Law, who brought in another lawyer from the defense, Melissa Swartz, of Cambareri & Brenneck.

Hammond and Swartz credited Fitzpatrick with taking a personal interest in the case and understanding that scientific advancements have cast doubt on the use of hair analysis, the only type of forensic evidence that has been produced. during the Broadwater trial to link it to Sebold’s rape.

The fate of the film adaptation of “Lucky” was not clear in light of Broadwater’s exemption. A message requesting comment has been left for its new executive producer, Jonathan Bronfman of Toronto-based JoBro Productions.

Sebold wrote in “Lucky” that when she was informed that she had chosen someone other than the man she had previously identified as her rapist, she said the two men appeared “almost identical. “.

She wrote that she realized the defense would be: “A panicked white girl saw a black man on the street. He spoke to her familiarly and in her mind she linked it to his rape. She blamed the wrong man.


This story has been corrected to remove a reference to Netflix involved in the adaptation of “Lucky”. A Netflix spokesperson said “Lucky” was not Netflix’s project. This story has also been corrected to note that Melissa Swartz’s firm is Cambareri & Brenneck, not CDH Law.

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Margarita W. Wilson

The author Margarita W. Wilson