Why has the man Alice Sebold helped convict just been exonerated? TOM LEONARD ...

Why has the man Alice Sebold helped convict just been exonerated? TOM LEONARD ...
Why has the man Alice Sebold helped convict just been exonerated? TOM LEONARD ...

Acclaimed novelist Alice Sebold was a first-year student at Syracuse University in upstate New York when she was raped at knifepoint in May 1981. 

The terrifying ordeal would come to define her writing career. 

Her most famous novel, The Lovely Bones — later turned into a feature film starring Saoirse Ronan — is about a girl who is raped and murdered. 

And Sebold's memoir, Lucky, ploughed the same shocking literary furrow, the cover declaring: 'In the tunnel where I was raped, a girl had been murdered and dismembered. I was told this story by the police. In comparison, they said, I was lucky.' 

Critics rhapsodised about her unflinching description of the rape, her determination to wrest her life back from her attacker, as well as her 'courage to speak the unspeakable'. 

Acclaimed novelist Alice Sebold's terrifying ordeal would come to define her writing career with her most famous novel, The Lovely Bones, published in 2002

Acclaimed novelist Alice Sebold's terrifying ordeal would come to define her writing career with her most famous novel, The Lovely Bones, published in 2002

That she should be able to use a tragedy that might have ruined her life as the inspiration for a glittering literary career seemed entirely just. 

The only problem, it appears, is that it also ruined another innocent life — that of the man she identified in court as her attacker, who spent 16 years in prison for the crime from which he has now been exonerated. 

On Monday, a judge in Syracuse quashed the conviction of Anthony Broadwater at the request of prosecutors, who admitted there had been serious flaws in the original trial. 

Broadwater's lawyers pointed out that Sebold had initially identified a different man in a police identity parade. 

They also argued that the prosecution had relied on a type of microscopic hair analysis that has since been debunked by forensic scientists. 

Ironically, despite Broadwater fighting for decades to clear his name, the success of his appeal can largely be attributed to the producer of a film version of Sebold's memoir that was in pre-production. He noticed discrepancies between the film script and her book. 

Broadwater, 61, sobbed in court as prosecutor William Fitzpatrick said: 'I'm not going to sully this proceeding by saying: 'I'm sorry'. That doesn't cut it. This should never have happened.' 

Anthony Broadwater (centre), 61, reacts to Judge Gordon Cuffy overturning the 40-year-old rape conviction that wrongfully put him in state prison for Alice Sebold's rape

Anthony Broadwater (centre), 61, reacts to Judge Gordon Cuffy overturning the 40-year-old rape conviction that wrongfully put him in state prison for Alice Sebold's rape

Sebold, 58, had no comment on the decision, said her publisher, Scribner. It added that there were no plans to update the contents of the memoir, which covered her alleged attacker's arrest and conviction. 

In a 2003 interview she said: 'Everybody in my case had said, 'Whatever you do, don't look at the rapist when you go in the court because he will try to intimidate you.' So as soon as they told me that, I knew I would. I looked at him intensely and wouldn't take my eyes away from him, and he turned away and looked down.' 

For his part, Broadwater said he 'truly and strongly' sympathised with the author. 'Something did happen, but I was not the person,' he said. 

'I just hope and pray that maybe Ms Sebold will come forward and say, 'Hey, I made a grave mistake', and give me an apology.' 

Broadwater, who passed two lie detector tests attesting his innocence, said his life had been blighted by his conviction. After his release from prison in 1999 on the completion of his sentence, he remained on a public sex offender register and was ostracised by friends, family and employers. 

An emotion Anthony Broadwater pictured hugging a relative in court after a judge overturned his conviction for rape

An emotion Anthony Broadwater pictured hugging a relative in court after a judge overturned his conviction for rape

He was forced to do odd jobs and manual labour to get by, and specifically worked night shifts so that he would have an alibi if there was another attack like the midnight rape of Sebold. 

He said his wife, Elizabeth, had wanted to have children but he refused, saying that he didn't want them to have to live with the stigma of his conviction. And his supposed crime was there for all to see. 

In Sebold's 1999 memoir, his accuser had graphically described what befell her as she was returning home through a park near her university campus. 

The 18-year-old was grabbed from behind, beaten, cut and dragged into a bottle-strewn tunnel that was an underground entrance to an amphitheatre. 

Sebold, who was a virgin, said the monster who raped her told her: 'You're the worst b***h I ever done this to.' 

When he was finished with her, he asked Sebold for her name. 'I couldn't lie. I didn't have a name other than my own to say,' she said. 

'So his parting

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