/ 02 December 2021

Author apologises for a devastating case of mistaken identity

Image source: AP
Image source: AP

Alice Sebold, one of the best-selling authors of the early 2000s, has apologised to a man who was jailed after she identified him as her rapist. The sexual assault and ensuing trial was the basis of her blockbuster memoir Lucky. Anthony Broadwater was convicted and served 16 years in prison despite his repeated denials and appeals – and a fortnight ago, his conviction was overturned. Yesterday, Sebold apologised for “unwittingly” playing a part in a system that sent an innocent man to jail.

Sebold was a student at Syracuse University in New York in 1981 when she was raped and beaten inside a tunnel near the campus. Months later, she spotted the man in the street who she believed was her attacker. It was Broadwater, and he was later convicted. Lucky kickstarted Sebold’s literary career, which paved the way for her novel The Lovely Bones, which sold millions of copies and was made into a Peter Jackson-directed/Oscar-nominated feature film. Fast forward to this year, and a planned Netflix adaptation of Lucky (which has now been ditched) prompted the film’s executive producer Timothy Mucciante to dig into the case. He hired a private investigator who became convinced that Broadwater’s conviction was wrong. Legal wheels turned, and Broadwater’s conviction was overturned on 22 November. He’s now 61yo, and he said he sobbed with tears of “joy and relief”.

The author issued a statement yesterday saying she was “deeply sorry”, and as a traumatised teenager, she put her faith in the authorities. Now, she says she’s sorry that he became “another young Black man brutalised by our flawed legal system.” Broadwater responded that Sebold’s apology “took courage” and that he understood that she was a victim, just like him. Sebold’s publisher Scribner will suspend sales of Lucky while she considers how it might be revised. As for Mucciante, he is now working on a documentary about the wrongful conviction. The title is Unlucky.

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