A man who spent years in prison for a bestselling author’s 1981 rape, as featured in her memoir, has had his case overturned.
Anthony Broadwater fell into his chair and cried when a Syracuse, New York judge vacated his 1982 rape conviction Monday, according to the Associated Press. He was tried and convicted of raping novelist Alice Sebold when she was was an 18-year-old student at Syracuse University. She later wrote about her ordeal 1999 memoir, “Lucky,” though is arguably best known for her 2002 novel, “The Lovely Bones.”
Broadwater served 16 years in a state prison for the crime before being released in 1999, after which he was placed on the state’s sex offender registry.
“I’ve been crying tears of joy and relief the last couple of days,” Broadwater told the Associated Press. “I’m so elated, the cold can’t even keep me cold.”
In “Lucky,” Alice Sebold described her struggle to have a normal life after the “harrowing, life-changing event,” according to the book’s blurb by Simon & Schuster.
“No less gripping is the almost unbelievable role that coincidence plays in the unfolding of Sebold’s narrative,” said her publishers. “Her case, placed in the inactive file, is miraculously opened again six months later when she sees her rapist on the street. This begins the long road to what dominates these pages: the struggle for triumph and understanding – in the courtroom and outside in the world.”
Sebold used the pseudonym Gregory Madison for her attacker in the book.
“I never, ever, ever thought I would see the day that I would be exonerated,” Broadwater said after the judge’s decision, according to Syracuse.com.
Broadwater’s case got another look after producers working on an adaptation of “Lucky” took notice of the discrepancies between the book and the script’s first draft, according to the AP.
“I started poking around and trying to figure out what really happened here,” said the executive producer, Tim Mucciante, of Red Badge Films.
Mucciante, who dropped out of the project, hired a private investigator to look into Broadwater’s case. From there, the investigator put Broadwater in touch with the attorneys who represent him today.
As detailed in her book, Sebold said she spotted her rapist on the street months after being attacked.
“He was smiling as he approached. He recognized me. It was a stroll in the park to him; he had met an acquaintance on the street. ‘Hey, girl,’ he said. ‘Don’t I know you from somewhere?’” she wrote.
Sebold contacted the police, who failed to find the suspect when they swept the area. One officer suggested it could have been Broadwater, who had been seen in the area, according to the AP. However, after authorities arrested him, Sebold failed to identify him in a police lineup. Instead, Sebold picked another suspect out of the lineup because “the expression in his eyes told me that if we were alone, if there were no wall between us, he would call me by my name and then kill me.”
Despite Sebold’s failure to pick Broadwater out of a lineup, he was charged and she later identified him as her rapist at trial, which largely hinged on an expert’s testimony rooted in questionable science. According to the AP, the expert witness claimed that microscopic hair analysis tied Broadwater to the crime.
“Sprinkle some junk science onto a faulty identification, and it’s the perfect recipe for a wrongful conviction,” said Broadwater’s attorney, David Hammond, according to Syracuse.com.
Even prosecutors sided with the judge’s decision to overturn his conviction, according to Syracuse.com.
“I’m not going to sully this proceeding by saying, ‘I’m sorry,’” said Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick. “That doesn’t cut it. This should have never happened.”
Fitzpatrick had a private meeting with Broadwater.
“When he spoke to me about the wrong that was done to me, I couldn’t help but cry,” said Broadwater. “The relief that a district attorney of that magnitude would side with me in this case, it’s so profound. I don’t know what to say.”
“I know Tony Broadwater is innocent,” said Hammond. “You read the trial transcript, you read Ms. Sebold’s book, and you talk to Tony Broadwater, and you know he’s innocent. He’s simply not the man Ms. Sebold described in her book.”
Sebold’s agents did not immediately return requests made by Archiweekend.com.
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