New York State Supreme Court Justice Gordon Cuffy on Nov. 22 vacated the rape conviction that kept Anthony Broadwater behind bars for 16 years.
Broadwater was convicted in 1982 of the rape of author Alice Sebold. Sebold, author of the book “The Lovely Bones,” wrote about the rape in her 1999 memoir “Lucky.”
The memoir, which sold over 1 million copies and setoff Sebold’s career as an author, had been set to become a Netflix film adaptation. But questions arose about Broadwater’s guilt after a producer for the project hired a private investigator to look into the events of the memoir.
Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick sided with two defense attorneys who requested the conviction be vacated over concerns over the prosecution of the case four decades ago.
“I’m not going to sully this proceeding by saying, ‘I’m sorry.’ That doesn’t cut it,” Fitzpatrick said Monday in court. “This should never have happened.”
“I never, ever, ever thought I would see the day that I would be exonerated,” Broadwater, now 61, said following the decision.
The case was built primarily on Sebold’s testimony that Broadwater was the man who attacked her, and on hair analysis later deemed faulty. Sebold hasn’t commented publicly on the exoneration of the man her testimony sent to prison.
Sebold wrote in “Lucky” that while she was a freshman at Syracuse University on 1981, a Black man attacked and raped her. Five months later, Sebold spotted a Black man on the street. She believed he was her attacker and contacted authorities.
An officer suggested the man Sebold saw must have been Broadwater because he was in the area at the time. But when Broadwater was arrested, Sebold failed to identify him in a lineup.
Nonetheless, Broadwater was tried and convicted for the rape and related charges the following year. The FBI in 2015 found that microscopic hair analysis, like the evidence used to convict Browadwater, was faulty in 90 percent of cases reviewed by the agency.
“Sprinkle some junk science onto a faulty identification, and it’s the perfect recipe for a wrongful conviction,” Broadwater’s attorney, David Hammond, told the Post-Standard.
Tim Mucciante, an executive producer who worked on the Netflix film adaptation of “Lucky” hired a private investigator to look into the events at the center of the memoir. Mucciante told The New York Times that there were discrepancies between the memoir and the movie script that raised concerns, and that the events in the trial in the second half of the story “didn’t hang together.”
The investigator put Mucciante in touch with Hammond and other attorneys at a Syracuse-based law firm who cast doubt on the forensic evidence in the case, including the hair analysis.
“When the district attorney spoke to me, his words were so profound — so strong — it shook me,” Broadwater told CNN on Wednesday. “It made me cry with joy and happiness because a man of this magnitude would say what he said on my behalf … it’s, it’s beyond whatever I can say myself.”
Broadwater remained on New York’s sex offender list even after his prison term ended in 1999. Five times, he was denied parole for refusing to admit to a crime he didn’t commit.
Variety Magazine reported on Nov. 25 that the film project was abandoned months ago after losing financing.
A spokesperson for Scribner, Sebold’s publisher, said: “Neither Alice Sebold nor Scribner has any comment. Scribner has no plans to update the text of Lucky at this time.”
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