The man convicted in the 1981 rape of author Alice Sebold, a crime chronicled in Sebold’s 1999 memoir Lucky, was exonerated of the charges Monday in New York State Supreme Court.
The conviction of Anthony Broadwater was overturned, with Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick saying, the conviction “should never have happened,” according to a report in the Post-Standard of Syracuse.
Broadwater spent 16 years in prison before being released in 1998; he has spent much of his time and money since his release endeavoring to prove his innocence. Yesterday, New York State Supreme Court Justice Gordon J. Cuffy overturned the conviction of first-degree rape and five other charges.
In her 1999 memoir Lucky, Sebold, author of bestseller The Lovely Bones, chronicled the 1981 rape that occurred when she was a student at Syracuse University. The book has been in development for a movie adaptation: In May, Variety reported that Victoria Pedretti, a star of Netflix’s You, had been cast to play Sebold in the film version.
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The conviction was overturned after attorneys for Broadwater argued that the case against their client was seriously flawed. Broadwater had been found guilty, they said, based entirely on a now-discredited method of identification through microscopic hair analysis, and on Sebold’s in-court identification of Broadwater. The author had initially identified another man in a police lineup, changing her mind only after the original prosecutors untruthfully told her that Broadwater and the misidentified man had purposely tried to trick and confuse her, The New York Times reports.
David Hammond, one of Broadwater’s attorneys who sought his exoneration, told the Syracuse Post-Standard, “Sprinkle some junk science onto a faulty identification, and it’s the perfect recipe for a wrongful conviction.”
Sebold has not commented on the overturned conviction.
According to The New York Times, the efforts to exonerate Broadwater began as a result of the planned movie adaptation: Timothy Mucciante was an executive producer of the movie but, says the Times, “began to question the story that the movie was based on earlier this year, after he noticed discrepancies between the memoir and the script.”
Mucciante left the production in June and hired a private investigator to examine the evidence against Broadwater. Mucciante and the investigator then presented the results of their investigation to attorney Hammond.
In an interview with the Times, Mucciante said, “I started having some doubts, not about the story that Alice told about her assault, which was tragic, but the second part of her book about the trial, which didn’t hang together.”
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