Days after the 1982 rape conviction of Anthony Broadwater was overturned, which erroneously sent the man to prison for 16 years, the planned film adaptation of author Alice Sebold’s memoir Lucky has been scrapped, which was based on the event and the case. The film had been scheduled to star You’s Victoria Pedretti and be directed by Karen Moncreiff, but it was ultimately the involvement of film producer Tim Mucciante that started the process toward Broadwater’s exoneration, as he became skeptical of some of the inconsistencies in the story of Lucky and pushed for renewed investigation.
Ultimately, Broadwater had been convicted in 1982 on the basis of Sebold’s identification of him in court, as well as microscopic hair analysis via a method that is no longer considered to be accurate or admissible. The memoir Lucky tells the story of the crime, and how a then 18-year-old Sebold was raped and beaten within a tunnel near the campus of Syracuse University, where she was a student. At the time, Sebold was unable to identify her attacker, but months later she saw a black man on the street and became convinced that he was the man who attacked her. As she wrote in Lucky:
“He was smiling as he approached. He recognized me. It was a stroll in the park to him; he had met an acquaintance on the street. ‘Hey, girl,’ he said. ‘Don’t I know you from somewhere?’ I looked directly at him. Knew his face had been the face over me in the tunnel.”
But Sebold was wrong, and Broadwater ultimately paid the price and was convicted, even though the author also incorrectly identified him as part of a police lineup. It was a tragic outcome; one that upended the life of Broadwater and is no doubt painful to Sebold as well, as she contends with the knowledge that her incorrect testimony sent an innocent black man to jail. The author of The Lovely Bones has stayed silent since the conviction was overturned, offering no statement or apology. Via the Guardian, Sebold’s publisher Scribner said only the following: “Neither Alice Sebold nor Scribner has any comment. Scribner has no plans to update the text of Lucky at this time.”
The justice system, unsurprisingly, has been a bit more apologetic. Onondaga County district attorney William Fitzpatrick said the following when the conviction was overturned: “I’m not to sully this proceeding by saying, ‘I’m sorry.’ That doesn’t cut it. This should never have happened.”
Now 61 years old, Broadwater is grateful for the exoneration, but it surely can’t begin to ease the pain of a life that has been burdened with this weight since 1982.
“When he spoke to me about the wrong that was done to me, I couldn’t help but cry,” Broadwater said. “The relief that a district attorney of that magnitude would side with me in this case, it’s so profound, I don’t know what to say.”