Lovely Bones author Alice Sebold says she’s ‘truly sorry’ to black man wrongly convicted of raping her

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  • Alice Sebold
    American writer
Alice Sebold was a student when she mistakenly identified Anthony Broadwater as the man who attacked her  (AP)
Alice Sebold was a student when she mistakenly identified Anthony Broadwater as the man who attacked her (AP)

Best-selling author Alice Sebold has issued a public apology to a man who was wrongfully convicted of raping her 40 years ago in an attack that inspired her 1999 memoir Lucky.

Anthony Broadwater, who spent 16 years in prison, was exonerated by a court in New York last week after after prosecutors reexamined the case and determined there were serious flaws in his arrest and trial.

The 61-year-old was convicted in 1982 after Sebold, then a student at Syracuse University, mistakenly identified him as the man who attacked her five months previously.

Sebold said in a statement on the Medium website that she was “truly sorry to Anthony Broadwater and I deeply regret what you have been through”.

Sebold, who went on to write best-seller The Lovely Bones, said that as a “traumatized 18 year-old” she had put her faith in the US legal system.

“I am grateful that Mr. Broadwater has finally been vindicated, 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,” Sebold wrote.

“I will continue to struggle with the role that I unwittingly played within a system that sent an innocent man to jail,” she added.

The rape and the subsequent trauma formed the basis of Sebold’s first book Lucky, which launched her career.

In her statement, Sebold said she was truly sorry for what Mr Broadwater had been through.

Anthony Broadwater’s rape conviction was overturned on November 22 (AP)
Anthony Broadwater’s rape conviction was overturned on November 22 (AP)

“I am sorry most of all for the fact that the life you could have led was unjustly robbed from you, and I know that no apology can change what happened to you and never will,” she wrote.

She wrote that “as a traumatized 18-year-old rape victim, I chose to put my faith in the American legal system. 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.”

In a statement issued by his lawyers, Broadwater said he was “relieved that she has apologized”.

He went on: “It must have taken a lot of courage for her to do that. It’s still painful to me because I was wrongfully convicted, but this will help me in my process to come to peace with what happened.”

Sebold wrote in Lucky of being raped and then spotting a Black man in the street several months later who she believed was her attacker.

Sebold, who is white, went to police. An officer said the man in the street must have been Broadwater, who had supposedly been seen in the area.

After Broadwater was arrested, Sebold failed to identify him in a police lineup, picking a different man as her attacker because she was frightened of “the expression in his eyes”.

But prosecutors put Broadwater on trial anyway. He was convicted based largely on Sebold identifying him as her rapist on the witness stand and testimony that microscopic hair analysis had tied him to the crime. That type of analysis has since been deemed junk science by the US Department of Justice.

The conviction was overturned after an executive producer of a planned film adaptation of Lucky noticed several issues with the trial.

Timothy Mucciante became so convinced that an injustice had occurred that he dropped out of the film project and hired a private investigator to delve deeper into the case.

The findings of the investigation were handed over to Mr Broadwater’s lawyer.

Broadwater, who was released from prison in 1998, told the AP last week he was crying “tears of joy and relief” after his conviction was overturned by a judge in Syracuse on November 22.

Publisher Simon & Schuster and its imprint Scribner said Tuesday they had ceased distribution of Lucky in all formats and were working with the author to consider how it might be revised.

Broadwater remained on New York’s sex offender registry after he was released from prison and has worked as a trash hauler and a handyman.

“It has taken me these past eight days to comprehend how this could have happened,” said Sebold, now 58.

“I will continue to struggle with the role that I unwittingly played within a system that sent an innocent man to jail. I will also grapple with the fact that my rapist will, in all likelihood, never be known, may have gone on to rape other women, and certainly will never serve the time in prison that Mr. Broadwater did.”

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