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Man Cleared in 1981 Rape of Celebrated Author

Alice Sebold misidentified Anthony Broadwater, who was exonerated after filmmaker had doubts
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 24, 2021 3:07 PM CST
Ex-Con Cleared in Rape at Heart of Alice Sebold's Memoir
Anthony Broadwater, center, looks up Monday in court in Syracuse, N.Y., after Judge Gordon Cuffy overturned the nearly 40-year-old rape conviction that wrongfully put him in state prison.   (Katrina Tulloch/The Post-Standard via AP)

(Newser) – Before a district attorney and a man wrongly convicted of rape in 1982 appeared in a New York court Monday, they met alone in another room. "When he spoke to me about the wrong that was done to me, I couldn't help but cry," Anthony Broadwater said. "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." A judge then exonerated Broadwater, Syracuse.com reports, vacating his conviction. He'd been sent to prison after being misidentified by future author Alice Sebold as the man who raped her when she was a college student. Sebold told of the attack in her 1999 memoir, Lucky.

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During the trial, which took less than two days, Sebold identified Broadwater as the man who raped her in a park near Syracuse University in 1981. But in Lucky, she wrote that she had picked the wrong person out of a lineup, which a prosecutor conceded in the original trial. He said there was still physical evidence tying Broadwater to the crime—microscopic hair analysis, per the AP. The federal Justice Department now calls that sort of analysis junk science. Sebold, who is white, testified that Broadwater and the other man, who are Black, could have been twins. "I'm not going to sully these proceedings by saying, 'I'm sorry,'" the district attorney, William Fitzpatrick, said Monday in court. "That doesn’t cut it. This should never have happened."

The conviction unraveled only recently, after an executive producer on a film version of Lucky spotted discrepancies. Timothy Mucciante quit the project, per the New York Times, and hired a private investigator, who turned his findings over to a lawyer. Sebold became a celebrated author with the publication of The Lovely Bones, a novel that sold millions of copies and became a successful film. Broadwater spent 16 years in prison and has been limited to jobs such as trash hauler and handyman since. He told his wife he didn't want children because of the stigma they'd bear. His name now will be taken off the sex offender registry, and he'll resume trying to rebuild his life. Since his release in 1998, he said: "I can count the people that allowed me to grace their homes and dinners, and I don't get past 10. That’s very traumatic to me." (Read more wrongful conviction stories.)

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