He refused to have children with his wife because of the stigma.
The man who was accused of raping “The Lovely Bones” author Alice Sebold 40 years ago has just had his conviction overturned.
Anthony Broadwater, who spent 16 years in prison for a crime he did not commit, was exonerated by a judge on Monday after serious flaws were highlighted in the 1982 prosecution, AP reported.
Sebold, 58, had detailed the rape in graphic detail in her 1999 memoir, “Lucky”. The threads in the four decades-old case only started to unravel recently, when a producer working on a film adaptation said he noticed inconsistencies, and began digging.
In her book, Sebold describes the night she, then a 19-year-old first year student at Syracuse University, was raped by a Black man in a tunnel in May of 1981. Nobody was arrested at the time; but months later, she insisted she passed her attacker — whom she gave the pseudonym Gregory Madison — in the street.
“He was smiling as he approached. He recognized me. It was a stroll in the park to him; he had met an acquaintance on the street,” she wrote. “‘Hey, girl,’ he said. ‘Don’t I know you from somewhere?'”
“I looked directly at him. Knew his face had been the face over me in the tunnel.”
She immediately reported the encounter to police, who swept the area but could not find him. One officer claimed Broadwater had been in the area at the time, and he was brought in for a police line-up. But Sebold initially failed to pick him out.
She admits in her book that out of the five Black men presented, she picked a different man because “the expression in his eyes told me that if we were alone, if there were no wall between us, he would call me by name and then kill me.”
She said it dawned on her moments later she had picked the wrong man because they looked “almost identical”. She would later identify Broadwater in court.
Despite the initial misidentification, the prosecution’s case would largely hinge on the police line-up, as well as testimony from a forensic chemist claiming microscopic hair analysis tied Broadwater to the crime scene. Per AP, that type of forensic analysis has since been deemed junk science by the Department of Justice, and is no longer relied upon in court.
Broadwater was found guilty and spent the next 16 years in prison, and placed on the sex offender’s registry for life.
Questions around the conviction were only raised when producer Tim Mucciante, who was working on an upcoming film adaptation of “Lucky” noticed inconsistencies between the script and the book.
“I started poking around and trying to figure out what really happened here,” he told AP.
After dropping out of the project, he hired a private investigator, who in turn reached out to defense attorney David Hammond, who took on the case.
Speaking at Monday’s court hearing, Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick conceded: “I’m not going to sully this proceeding by saying, ‘I’m sorry.’ That doesn’t cut it. This should never have happened.”
“And I will say to Mr. Broadwater that I assure him that it will never happen again; that we will never let junk science into a courtroom in this county,” he added, per The Post-Standard of Syracuse.
Admitting that he could not give Broadwater his 16 years back, Supreme Court Justice Gordon Cuffy overturned the conviction and declared him a free man. Broadwater immediately broke down in tears:
“When he spoke to me about the wrong that was done to me, I couldn’t help but cry,” an emotional Broadwater told the outlet. “The relief that a district attorney of that magnitude would side with me in this case, it’s so profound, I don’t know what to say.”
Since his release from prison on New Year’s Day 1999, Broadwater struggled to get employment because of the conviction, and was forced to largely remove himself from society.
He worked as a trash hauler and even took on a job as a night security guard so he would have an alibi if ever accused of another night crime.
He later met and married his eventual wife who believed him from the start, but refused to have children with her because of the stigma they would be born with.
“She wanted children… I wouldn’t bring children into the world, because of this,” he said through tears. “And now we’re past the age where we can have children.”
“Ruined his life, his life has been ruined over this,” Hammond added, by his side. “Not just incarceration, but wrongfully being labeled a sex offender; these are things that he will never get back. An astonishingly simple case of injustice.”
Broadwater would now like an apology from Sebold.
“I just hope and pray that maybe Ms. Sebold will come forward and say, ‘Hey, I made a grave mistake,’ and give me an apology,” he said. “I sympathize with her, but she was wrong.”
Three years after “Lucky”, Sebold went on to publish “The Lovely Bones” — also about a rape — which in turn was made made into the multi-award winning 2009 film starring Saoirse Ronan, Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz and Susan Sarandon, as well as Stanley Tucci, who was nominated for an Oscar for his performance.
Sebold has yet to comment on Broadwater’s exoneration.