UPDATED: Bestselling author Alice Sebold today addressed a court decision that exonerated the man convicted in her 1981 rape.
After apologizing to the wrongly-convicted Anthony Broadwater — who is Black — for “the role that I unwittingly played within a system that sent an innocent man to jail” Sebold, who mistakenly identified Broadwater as her assailant, said the system had failed them both.
“I chose to put my faith in the American legal system,” wrote the author in a statement posted on Medium. “My goal in 1982 was justice — not to perpetuate injustice. And certainly not to forever, and irreparably, alter a young man’s life by the very crime that had altered mine.”
Sebold wrote of the rape in her 1999 memoir Lucky. Such an assault also figures prominently in her bestselling 2002 novel The Lovely Bones, which Peter Jackson adapted for the big screen in 2009.
“I am grateful that Mr. Broadwater has finally been vindicated,” said Sebold in her statement, “but the fact remains that 40 years ago, he became another young Black man brutalized by our flawed legal system. I will forever be sorry for what was done to him.”
PREVIOUSLY on Nov. 24: The man convicted in the 1981 rape of author Alice Sebold, a crime chronicled in Sebold’s 1999 memoir Lucky, was exonerated of the charges Monday in New York State Supreme Court.
The conviction of Anthony Broadwater — who is Black — was overturned, with Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick saying, the conviction “should never have happened,” according to a report in the Post-Standard of Syracuse.
Broadwater spent 16 years in prison before being released in 1998; he has spent much of his time and money since his release endeavoring to prove his innocence. Yesterday, New York State Supreme Court Justice Gordon J. Cuffy overturned the conviction of first-degree rape and five other charges.
In her 1999 memoir Lucky, Sebold, author of bestseller The Lovely Bones, chronicled the 1981 rape that occurred when she was a student at Syracuse University. The book has been in development for a movie adaptation: In May, Variety reported that Victoria Pedretti, a star of Netflix’s You, had been cast to play Sebold in the film version.
The conviction was overturned after attorneys for Broadwater argued that the case against their client was seriously flawed. Broadwater had been found guilty, they said, based entirely on a now-discredited method of identification through microscopic hair analysis, and on Sebold’s in-court identification of Broadwater. The author had initially identified another man in a police lineup, changing her mind only after the original prosecutors untruthfully told her that Broadwater and the misidentified man had purposely tried to trick and confuse her, The New York Times reports.
David Hammond, one of Broadwater’s attorneys who sought his exoneration, told the Syracuse Post-Standard, “Sprinkle some junk science onto a faulty identification, and it’s the perfect recipe for a wrongful conviction.”
Sebold has not commented on the overturned conviction.
According to The New York Times, the efforts to exonerate Broadwater began as a result of the planned movie adaptation: Timothy Mucciante was an executive producer of the movie but, says the Times, “began to question the story that the movie was based on earlier this year, after he noticed discrepancies between the memoir and the script.”
Mucciante left the production in June and hired a private investigator to examine the evidence against Broadwater. Mucciante and the investigator then presented the results of their investigation to attorney Hammond.
In an interview with the Times, Mucciante said, “I started having some doubts, not about the story that Alice told about her assault, which was tragic, but the second part of her book about the trial, which didn’t hang together.”
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