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A man who served about 16 years behind bars for allegedly raping best-selling author Alice Sebold saw his conviction overturned on Monday in a long-overdue day in court to correct an injustice.
Ex-Marine Anthony Broadwater’s name will also be expunged from the sex offender registry, which accordingly removes a stigma that has followed him since the 1982 conviction, and which often prevented him from finding work. He had decided against having kids with his wife because of the besmirchment on his record.
Arrested at age 20, Broadwater, 61, who was released from prison on New Year’s Day 1999, consistently maintained his innocence throughout and reportedly passed two lie detector tests. He may be able to seek financial compensation from the state for this miscarriage of justice.
“The extraordinary reversal came after Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick sided with two defense lawyers, who had asked for the dismissal based on serious flaws in the 1981 rape prosecution in Syracuse,” Syracuse.com explained. State Supreme Court Justice Gordon J. Cuffy concurred with the lawyers on both sides and threw out the first-degree rape conviction and related charges.
Broadwater’s exoneration may have directly resulted from plans to turn Sebold’s 1999 memoir called “Lucky” about being raped in 1981 as a Syracuse University freshman at a nearby park into a Netflix movie. If so, this might be one of the few instances where a Netflix original actually had meaningful social value. Sebold did not identify Broadwater by name in the book, opting for a pseudonym instead.
Sebold’s 2002 novel “The Lovely Bones,” about the rape and murder of a teenage girl which sold five million copies in the U.S. alone, became a successful 2009 film directed by “Lord of the Rings” helmer Peter Jackson.
Broadwater was convicted in a bench trial (i.e., before a judge with no jury) even though serious issues occurred in the way Sebold identified the suspect, according to the The New York Times:
After evidence was collected from a rape kit, she described her assailant’s features to the police, but the resulting composite sketch didn’t resemble him, she wrote.
Mr. Broadwater was arrested five months later, after Ms. Sebold passed him on the street and contacted the police, saying she may have seen her attacker.
But she identified a different man as her attacker in a police lineup. In her memoir, she writes that Mr. Broadwater and the man next to him looked alike and that moments after she made her choice, she felt she had picked the wrong man. She later identified Mr. Broadwater in court.
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