the law

Man Wrongly Accused of Rape of Lovely Bones Author Alice Sebold Has Conviction Overturned

Author Alice Sebold. Photo: Leonardo Cendamo/Getty Images

Update November 30, 4:30 p.m.: Alice Sebold has issued a statement through her Medium page, in which she repeatedly apologizes to Anthony Broadwater and acknowledges the effect her case had on his life. She writes, “I am sorry most of all for the fact that the life you could have led was unjustly robbed from you,” before tying their case to larger issues in the policing and imprisonment of Black men: “40 years ago, 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 not to forever, and irreparably, alter a young man’s life by the very crime that had altered mine.”

Sebold continues, “Today, American society is starting to acknowledge and address the systemic issues in our judicial system that too often means that justice for some comes at the expense of others.” She expresses the weight of her regret, writing, “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.”

Update November 27, 7:00 p.m.: The film adaptation of Lucky has lost its financing, per Variety. Victoria Pedretti, who was set to star as Sebold, is no longer involved with the project.

Original story follows.

On Monday, November 22, four decades after The Lovely Bones author Alice Sebold accused a now 61-year-old Anthony Broadwater of rape, his conviction was rightfully overturned in court on account of what the Associated Press reports as “serious flaws with the 1982 prosecution and concerns the wrong man had been sent to jail.” The author says she was raped during her freshman year at Syracuse University in a tunnel near campus. Months later, she spotted Anthony Broadwater, a Black man unrelated to the assault, and brought him to the police’s attention. On the witness stand in court, she wrongly identified him as her rapist, and Broadwater was sent to prison for 16 years. Sebold’s assault became the subject matter of her debut book, the 1999 memoir Lucky.

The case was reopened when a film adaptation of Sebold’s memoir went into preproduction and executive producer Tim Mucciante “became skeptical of Broadwater’s guilt when the first draft of the script came out because it differed so much from the book.” Mucciante hired a private investigator and a defense lawyer who found flaws in the case, including faulty forensic analysis and Sebold’s initially identifying the wrong man in a police lineup because they looked — to quote Lucky — “almost identical.” At Broadwater’s exoneration, District Attorney William Fitzpatrick said, “I’m not going to sully this proceeding by saying, ‘I’m sorry.’ That doesn’t cut it … This should never have happened.”

Even after he was released from prison in 1999, Broadwater lived with the stigma of rape conviction and imprisonment, saying that his place on New York’s sex-offender registry held him back from job prospects and relationships with friends and family.

Wrongfully Accused Man Exonerated in Alice Sebold Rape Case