Author Alice Sebold has issued a public apology on Tuesday to the Black man exonerated last week in connection with the rape at the center of her 1999 memoir “Lucky.”
Anthony Broadwater, 61, spent 16 years in prison after Sebold identified him as her rapist in her testimony during a 1982 trial. New York State Supreme Court Justice Gordon Cuffy vacated the conviction on Nov. 22.
Sebold, who initially remained silent, said Tuesday that she is “truly sorry” about the years “unjustly robbed” from Broadwater.
The author wrote on Medium, “I deeply regret what you have been through.” She continued, “I know that no apology can change what happened to you and never will.”
Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick took the side of two defense attorneys last week who requested the conviction be vacated over concerns about the prosecution of the case nearly 40 years ago.
Attorneys wrote in a motion requesting the conviction be vacated that Broadwater was convicted solely on Sebold’s testimony and hair analysis now deemed faulty by the FBI.
“40 years ago, as a traumatized 18-year-old rape victim, I chose to put my faith in the American legal system,” Sebold wrote in her apology. “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.”
Sebold wrote in “Lucky” that she was raped by a Black man while a student at Syracuse University in 1981. Several months later, Sebold spotted a man she believed to be her attacker. When she contacted authorities, they suggested it must have been Broadwater, who was in town at the time.
Sebold would fail to identify Broadwater in a police lineup, but later testified in court that he was the man who attacked her.
Broadwater recalled, speaking to The New York Times, that he was 20 years old and had just returned home to Syracuse be with his ill father after serving in the Marine Corps when he was arrested. Broadwater’s father died shortly after his son went to prison.
Broadwater said Tuesday he was “relieved and grateful” Sebold publicly apologized. “It took a lot of courage, and I guess she’s brave and weathering through the storm like I am,” he said. “To make that statement, it’s a strong thing for her to do, understanding that she was a victim and I was a victim too.”
After he walked free in 1998, Broadwater registered as a sex offender in New York. He told The New York Times he felt he could not have children because of the stigma of his conviction.
“Lucky” was set to become a Netflix film until Tim Mucciante, an executive producer working on the project, hired a private investigator to take a closer look at the events of the memoir that he felt just “didn’t hang together.”
The private investigator put Mucciante in contact with attorneys at a Syracuse-based law firm who cast doubt on the forensic evidence in the case, including the hair analysis that supposedly linked Broadwater to the crime.
Defense lawyers J. David Hammond and Melissa K. Swartz noted in their motion to vacate the motion that the microscopic hair analysis that led to Broadwater’s conviction has been discredited.
Netflix confirmed after the judge vacated Broadwater’s conviction that it had scrapped the film adaptation of Sebold’s memoir.
On Twitter, some users called for Sebold to compensate Broadwater for the years he lost.
Sebold’s publisher Scribner and Simon & Schuster is also backtracking from their initial refusal to make edits. On Tuesday they announced plans to cease publication of “Lucky” and work with the author to see how the text might be revised.
The memoir sold more than 1 million copies and helped spark Sebold’s career.
More news from our partners: