A rape conviction at the center of a memoir by award-winning author Alice Sebold was overturned because authorities found serious flaws in the 1982 indictment and feared the wrong man would be jailed.
Anthony Broadwater, who served 16 years in prison, was acquitted Monday by a judge for rape of Sebold while she was a student at Syracuse University, an attack she wrote about in her 1999 memoir, Lucky.
Broadwater was trembling with emotion and sobbing as his head fell in his hands as the Syracuse judge overturned his conviction at the prosecution’s request.
“I’ve been crying tears of joy and relief for the past few days,” Broadwater, 61, told The Associated Press on Tuesday. “I’m so excited, the cold can’t even keep me cold.”
Onondaga County’s District Attorney William Fitzpatrick told State Supreme Court Justice Gordon Cuffy at the trial that Broadwater’s indictment was an injustice. The Syracuse Post Standard reported.
“I’m not going to tarnish this process by saying, ‘I’m sorry.’ That’s not enough, ”said Fitzpatrick. “That should never have happened.”
Sebold, 58, wrote in Lucky that she was raped in May 1981 as a freshman in Syracuse and months later discovered a black man on the street she believed was her attacker.
“He smiled as he got closer. He recognized me. For him it was a walk in the park; he met a friend on the street, ”wrote the white Sebold. “’Hey, girl,’ he said. ‘Don’t I know you from somewhere?’ “
She said she didn’t answer, “I looked at him directly. I knew that his face in the tunnel was the face above me. “
Sebold went to the police, but they did not know the man’s name and an initial investigation of the area could not find him. One official suggested that the man on the street must have been Broadwater, who was allegedly seen in the area. Sebold gave Broadwater the pseudonym Gregory Madison in her book.
However, after Broadwater was arrested, Sebold was unable to identify him on a police line-up and chose a different man to attack because “the look in his eyes told me he would call when we were alone, when there was no wall between us “. me by name and then kill me. “
Broadwater was tried and convicted in 1982, however, based mainly on two pieces of evidence. On the witness stand, Sebold identified him as her rapist. And an expert said the microscopic hair analysis linked Broadwater to the crime. This type of analysis has since been classified as junk science by the US Department of Justice.
“Sprinkle a little junk science on a flawed ID and it’s the perfect recipe for wrongful conviction,” Broadwater’s attorney David Hammond told Post-Standard.
Messages to Sebold with a request for comment were sent through her publisher and her literary agency.
Broadwater remained on the New York Sex Offender Registry after serving in prison in 1999.
Broadwater, who has worked as a garbage truck and handyman in the years since his release, told the AP that the rape conviction has affected his job prospects and relationships with friends and family members.
Even after marrying a woman who believed in his innocence, Broadwater never wanted children.
“We had a big argument about children sometimes and I told her I could never 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 Fast 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 became a film with Saoirse Ronan, Susan Sarandon and Stanley Tucci.
“Lucky” was just being shot, too, and it was thanks to the film project itself that Broadwater’s beliefs were lifted after four decades.
Tim Mucciante, who has a production company called Red Badge Films, signed on as executive producer of the adaptation but became skeptical of Broadwater’s guilt when the first draft of the script came out because it was so different from the book.
“I started rummaging around and finding out what really happened here,” Mucciante told the AP on Tuesday.
Mucciante said that after abandoning the project earlier this year, he hired a private investigator who put him in touch with Hammond of CDH Law in Syracuse, who had brought in his defense attorney Melissa Swartz of Cambareni & Brenneck.
Hammond and Swartz credit Fitzpatrick for being personally interested in the case and understanding that advances in science cast doubts on the use of hair analysis, the only type of forensic evidence presented at Broadwater’s trial to back him up with Sebold’s rape to bring in connection.
The fate of the film adaptation of “Lucky” was unclear in view of the discharge from Broadwater. A message has been left for new executive producer Jonathan Bronfman of JoBro Productions in Toronto.
In “Lucky”, Sebold wrote that the two men looked “almost identical” when she learned that she had chosen someone other than the man she had previously identified as her rapist.
She wrote that she realized the defense would be like this: “A panicked white girl saw a black man on the street. He spoke to her intimately and in her mind she connected this to her rape. She accused the wrong man. “
Corrected this story to remove an indication that Netflix was involved in the adaptation of “Lucky”. A spokesman for Netflix says “Lucky” is not Netflix’s project. This story has also been corrected to indicate that Melissa Swartz’s company is Cambareni & Brenneck and not CDH Law.