Author Alice Sebold apologises to man falsely imprisoned for her rape

Alice Sebold

"Alice Sebold by David Shankbone" (CC BY 2.0) by david_shankbone

The author Alice Sebold has issued an apology after the man that was imprisoned for her rape was exonerated this week. The incident that occurred in 1981 was the basis for her memoir, Lucky, and happened while Sebold was a student at Syracuse University. 

Sebold has said she has been struggling to come to terms with the role she played “within a system that sent an innocent man to jail”. Anthony Broadwater, 61, was convicted in 1982 and served 16 years in prison before being released in 1998. His conviction was fully overturned on 22 November after prosecutors re-examined his case and found serious flaws both with his arrest and the subsequent trial.

Sebold is the author of bestsellers The Almost Moon and The Lovely Bones, the latter being turned into a hit film also. In a statement she released to Associated Press, she said that “as a traumatized 18-year-old rape victim” she chose to put her faith in the US legal system. 

“My goal in 1982 was justice – not to perpetuate injustice,” she said. “And certainly not to forever, and irreparably, alter a young man’s life by the very crime that had altered mine.” 

Mr Broadwater’s attorney said he had no comment to make. Mr Broadwater was arrested and charged even though Sebold failed to identify him in a police line-up, instead choosing another man due to being scared of the “expression in his eyes”. Broadwater was placed on trial and convicted based on now-defunct evidence testimony involving microscopic hair analysis, and Sebold then identifying him on the stand, despite passing over him in the identity parade. 

Broadwater, who was released from prison in 1998, told the AP last week he was crying “tears of joy and relief” after his conviction was overturned by a judge in Syracuse.

Alice Sebold, who has not previously commented on Broadwater’s exoneration, said in her statement: “I am grateful that Mr Broadwater has finally been vindicated, but the fact remains that 40 years ago, he became another young Black man brutalized by our flawed legal system. I will forever be sorry for what was done to him.”

Broadwater remained on New York’s sex offender registry after he was released from prison and has worked as a trashman and a handyman.

“It has taken me these past eight days to comprehend how this could have happened,” said Sebold, now 58. 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.”

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Written by

Claire Gordon