After spending nearly 40 years labeled as author Alice Sebold’s rapist, Anthony Broadwater was exonerated last week of all charges. The ruling came following the investigation by Tim Mucciante, executive producer on the adaptation of Sebold’s memoir of her rape Lucky, when he became curious why the first draft of the script for the adaptation differed from the book.
Broadwater was cleared of charges after the judge found significant flaws in the prosecution.
“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,” said Sebold in a statement to the Associated Press this week.
Sebold’s 1999 memoir documents her experience as a victim of rape during her freshman year at Syracuse University in May 1982. Broadwater was convicted and sentenced for the crime in 1982. In the book, Sebold writes about how months after the attack, she was walking down the street and saw a Black man that she felt was her rapist. In the book, she writes about the encounter: “’Hey girl,” he said. ‘Don’t I know you from somewhere?’”
Despite being unable to identify Broadwater as her rapist in a police lineup, he was convicted on two pieces of evidence: Sebold’s testimony and expert testimony about microscopic hair analysis — “junk science,” according to the US Department of Justice.
Days after Broadwater’s exoneration, Sebold issued a statement of apology to the Associated Press, which began with her noting her goal was justice following her rape and not irreparable injustice.
“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,” she said. In her memoir, she’d noted that in identifying the wrong man in the initial police lineup, the defense said “A panicked white girl saw a black [sic] man on the street. He spoke familiarly to her and in her mind she connected this to her rape. She was accusing the wrong man.”
On Tuesday, Simon & Schuster’s Scribner imprint, publisher of Lucky, decided to pull the book from distribution, days after a spokesperson for the publisher said there were no plans to do so. The publisher and author will work together to make appropriate revisions before determining where and how to reissue the work.
“Following the recent exoneration of Anthony Broadwater, and in consultation with the author, Scribner and Simon & Schuster will cease distribution of all formats of Alice Sebold’s 1999 memoir Lucky while Sebold and Scribner together consider how the work might be revised,” read the statement from the publisher.
The film adaptation that led to Broadwater’s exoneration was scrapped this week, citing loss of finances months earlier.
Mucciante, who’d initiated the investigation into the case, was financing the project through his company Red Badge Films. He’d left the production in June, when he hired a private investigator to reexamine the evidence against Broadwater.
“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,” Mucciante told the The New York Times.
Broadwater, who cried with joy and relief upon his exoneration, will never get the years back spent in jail for a crime he didn’t commit. But, in a statement provided by his lawyers to the Associated Press, he expressed relief for Sebold’s apology and acknowledged the courage for her to do so.
“It’s still painful to me because I was wrongfully convicted, but this will help me in my process to come to peace with what happened,” he said.
Lucky has sold over 1 million copies and helped launch Sebold’s career, which included bestselling novels including The Lovely Bones, which sold 11 million copies and was made into an Oscar award-winning film.