A man convicted of raping bestselling author Alice Sebold 40 years ago was exonerated after a producer working on a film adaptation of the writer’s memoir found inconsistencies with the story.
“I’ve been crying tears of joy and relief for the past few days,” 61-year-old Anthony Broadwater told The Associated Press on Tuesday. “I’m so elated that the cold can’t even keep me cold.”
Broadwater, who spent 16 years in prison, was acquitted Monday by a judge of raping Sebold as a student at Syracuse University, an assault she wrote about in her 1999 memoir “Lucky.” The memoirs preceded Sebold’s book, “The Lovely Bones,” which became a best-seller after its release in 2002 and later made into a movie.
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The exoneration comes after a producer working on a film adaptation of the memoir was skeptical that Broadwater was a guilty man. Initial media reports indicated that the adaptation of “Lucky” was a Netflix project, but the streaming and production company said it is not involved in the project.
Tim Mucciante, who runs a production company called Red Badge Films, had signed on as an executive producer on the adaptation, but was skeptical of Broadwater’s guilt when the first draft of the script came out because it was so different from the book.
“I started poking around and trying to find out what really happened here,” Mucciante told the AP on Tuesday.
Mucciante said that after leaving the project earlier this year, he hired a private investigator who put him in touch with Syracuse-based CDH Law attorney David Hammond, who brought in defense attorney Melissa Swartz of Cambareri & Brenneck.
Hammond and Swartz credited Onondaga County, New York, District Attorney William Fitzpatrick for taking a personal interest in the case and understanding that scientific advances have cast doubt on the use of hair analysis, the only type of analysis. Forensic evidence that was produced at the Broadwater trial to link him to Sebold’s rape.
Fitzpatrick told state Supreme Court Justice Gordon Cuffy at the court hearing that Broadwater’s prosecution was an injustice, The Post-Standard of Syracuse reported.
“I’m not going to sully this procedure by saying, ‘I’m sorry.’ That’s not enough,” Fitzpatrick said. “This should never have happened.”
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Sebold, 58, wrote in “Lucky” that she was raped as a freshman in Syracuse in May 1981 and then saw a black man on the street months later that she was sure was her attacker.
“He was smiling when he approached. He recognized me. For him it was a walk in the park; he had met an acquaintance on the street,” wrote Sebold, who is White. “‘Hey girl,’ he said. ‘Don’t I know you from somewhere?'”
Sebold went to the police but did not know the man’s name and an initial sweep of the area failed to locate him. An officer suggested that the man on the street must have been Broadwater, who had allegedly been seen in the area.
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Broadwater was arrested, but Sebold did not identify him in a police lineup, choosing a different man as his attacker because “the look in his eyes told me that if we were alone, if there was no wall between us, he would call me by name and then kill me “.
Broadwater was tried and convicted in 1982 based primarily on two pieces of evidence. On the witness stand, Sebold identified him as her rapist. And one expert said microscopic analysis of the hair had linked Broadwater to the crime. Since then, that kind of analysis has been deemed junk science by the US Department of Justice.
“Sprinkle a little junk science on a flawed ID, and it’s the perfect recipe for a wrongful conviction,” Hammond told the Post-Standard.
The AP said messages to Sebold seeking comment were sent through his publisher and his literary agency.
Broadwater, who has worked as a garbage hauler and handyman in the years since his release from prison in 1999, told the AP that the rape conviction ruined his job prospects and his relationships with friends and family.
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Associated Press contributed to this report.