After errors in his case were uncovered during the creation of a film based on the author’s memoir, an innocent black man who spent 16 years in prison for the rape of award-winning author Alice Sebold was exonerated. When a court reversed his conviction for raping Sebold in 1981 while she was a student at Syracuse University, Anthony Broadwater sobbed.
The rape was the inspiration for Sebold’s first book, “Lucky,” which began her career and led to her second novel, “The Lovely Bones,” published in 2002.
Broadwater, 61, told The New York Times, “I just hope and pray that maybe Ms. Sebold will come forward and say, ‘Hey, I made a big mistake,’ and apologize to me.” “I sympathize with her, but she was completely incorrect.”
When Broadwater was accused of raping Sebold in May 1981, he was 20 years old and had come home after serving in the marines. Broadwater was found guilty after Sebold positively identified him in court and used microscopic hair samples as proof. The US Department of Justice now considers hair analysis to be junk science.
Broadwater was released from prison in 1999 but stayed on the sex offender list in New York until recently. When executive producer Tim Mucciante noticed that the script’s first draft diverged so much from the book, “Lucky” was being produced for a Netflix feature in 2020. He began to have questions about the trial, and after being fired from the project, he hired a private investigator to look into the matter.
David Hammond and Melissa Swartz of the firm CDH Law were introduced to him by the private investigator. According to CNN, Hammond, who would later become Broadwater’s attorney, listened to the trial transcript and discovered “severe legal concerns.” He then filed a motion to have the conviction thrown out.
District Attorney William Fitzpatrick told the judge in Onondaga County Supreme Court that Broadwater’s prosecution was unjust. Before Monday’s ruling, Broadwater had attempted five times to have his conviction reversed. He said he never imagined the day when he would be exonerated.
Sebold, now 58, described being raped as a first-year student at Syracuse in May 1981 while walking home through a park near campus in her memoir “Lucky.” She claimed that months after the assault, she saw a Black man on the street who she believed to be her assailant.
“As he approached, he was smiling. He was aware of my presence. “To him, it was just a stroll around the park; he’d run into an acquaintance on the street,” wrote the White author. He said, ‘Hey, girl.’ ‘Do I recognize you from somewhere?’
“I looked squarely at him,” Sebold claimed, adding that she did not answer. I recognized his face as the one that had been hovering over me in the tunnel.”
She went to the cops and told them what had happened. Broadwater was later apprehended after police reported seeing him in the vicinity. Sebold, on the other hand, failed to recognize Broadwater in a police lineup, writing in her memoir that “the expression in his eyes warned me that if we were alone if there were no wall between us, he would call me by name and then kill me.”
Sebold later falsely identified Broadwater as her rapist at a future trial. Microscopical hair analysis, which is now widely regarded as junk science, was also used to link Broadwater to the crime, according to an expert. In 1982, Broadwater was found guilty. Until recently, when he met film producer Mucciante, he had no idea Sebold was a well-known author or that her situation inspired her novel.