Conviction overturned in 1981 rape of author Alice Sebold

Anthony Broadwater, center, gazes upward on Monday in Syracuse, N.Y., after state Supreme Court Justice Gordon Cuffy overturned the nearly 40-year-old conviction that wrongly put him in state prison for the rape of author Alice Sebold.

(AP) — A rape conviction at the center of a memoir by award-winning author Alice Sebold has been overturned because of what authorities determined were serious flaws with the 1982 prosecution and concerns that the wrong man had been sent to jail.

Anthony Broadwater, who finished his 16-year prison sentence in 1999, was cleared Monday by a judge of raping Sebold when she was a student at Syracuse University, an assault she wrote about in her 1999 memoir, “Lucky.”

Broadwater sobbed as the judge in Syracuse, New York, vacated his conviction at the request of prosecutors.

“I’ve been crying tears of joy and relief the last couple of days,” Broadwater, 61, told The Associated Press on Tuesday. “I’m so elated.”

Onondaga County District Attorney William 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.

“This should never have happened,” Fitzpatrick said.

Sebold, 58, wrote in “Lucky” of being raped as a first-year student at Syracuse in May 1981 and then spotting a Black man months later she was sure was her attacker: “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,” wrote Sebold, who is white. “ ‘Hey, girl,’ he said. ‘Don’t I know you from somewhere?’ ”

She said she didn’t respond: “I looked directly at him. Knew his face had been the face over me in the tunnel.”

Sebold went to police, but she didn’t know the man’s name and an initial sweep of the area failed to locate him. An officer suggested that the man must have been Broadwater, who had supposedly been seen in the area. Sebold gave Broadwater the pseudonym Gregory Madison in her book.

After Broadwater was arrested, however, Sebold failed to identify him in a police lineup. He was nonetheless tried and convicted in 1982 based largely on two pieces of evidence: On the witness stand, Sebold identified him as her rapist; and an expert said microscopic hair analysis had tied Broadwater to the crime. That type of analysis has since been deemed junk science by the U.S. Department of Justice.

“Sprinkle some junk science onto a faulty identification, and it’s the perfect recipe for a wrongful conviction,” Broadwater’s attorney, David Hammond, told the Post-Standard.

Messages seeking comment sent to Sebold through her publisher and her literary agency went unanswered.

Broadwater, who has worked as a trash hauler and a handyman in the years since his release from prison, told the AP that the rape conviction blighted his job prospects and his relationships with friends and family members.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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