In her acclaimed 1999 memoir Lucky, author Alice Sebold told the story of being raped in 1981 when she was a student at Syracuse University. The case resulted in a Black man named Anthony Broadwater being convicted and sent to prison. Sadly, Broadwater was innocent and wrongfully convicted — and now Sebold is apologizing for her role in the racially charged case and for ultimately destroying the man’s life.
Morgan Sung of NBC News reported that “Sebold apologized Tuesday, Nov. 30, to the man who was exonerated of the 1981 rape featured in her memoir, Lucky, saying she struggled with the role she ‘unwittingly played within a system that sent an innocent man to jail.’”
According to Sung, “Broadwater was convicted in 1982 of raping Sebold and served 16 years in prison. The conviction was overturned last week after authorities found serious flaws in the original arrest and the trial.”
Following Broadwater’s exoneration, Sebold released a statement to the Associated Press, again apologizing for her role in his conviction and saying that as a “traumatized 18-year-old rape victim,” she made the mistake of choosing to put her faith in the legal system.
“My goal in 1982 was justice — not to perpetuate injustice,” Sebold wrote. “And certainly not to forever, and irreparably, alter a young man’s life by the very crime that had altered mine.”
In Lucky, Sebold wrote that several months after her rape, she noticed a Black man walking down the street and thought he may have been her attacker. She then reported the sighting to police, who eventually arrested Broadwater after being spotted in the area.
During a police lineup, Sebold failed to identify Broadwater as her attacker, selecting another man as her rapist instead. Nonetheless, Broadwater was still tried for the case and ultimately convicted.
“Sebold identified him as her rapist on the witness stand, and an expert said microscopic hair analysis linked him to the assault,” Sung said. “The analysis used in the 1982 case has since been debunked as ‘junk science’ by the Justice Department.”
In her statement, Sebold said, “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.”
She added that she would remain sorry for the rest of her life, knowing that her “own misfortune” unwittingly cost Broadwater so much.
“He has served not only 16 years behind bars but in ways that further serve to wound and stigmatize nearly a full-life sentence,” she said.
In an interview with AP, Broadwater told reporters he has been “crying tears of joy and relief” ever since news of his exoneration broke.
Scribner and Simon & Schuster, publishers of Sebold’s memoir, have also added that they have removed Lucky from distribution in any format until it can be revised to reflect Broadwater’s newly proven innocence.
In addition to Lucky, Sebold is perhaps best known for also writing the novels The Almost Moon and The Lovely Bones, the latter of which was adapted into a critically acclaimed 2009 film directed by Peter Jackson and starring Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Susan Sarandon and Stanley Tucci.