Man Imprisoned for 16 Years for Raping Lovely Bones Author Is Exonerated
Alice Sebold’s bestselling 1999 memoir Lucky tells the story of a young woman raped by a stranger while attending Syracuse University. In the book, the rapist is caught and convicted. After writing about the experience, Sebold went on to write the bestseller The Lovely Bones, a fictional account of a teenage girl raped and killed. But last week Anthony Broadwater, the man who served 16 years in prison for raping Sebold, was exonerated.
Timothy Mucciante, a producer working on a film adaptation of Lucky, was fired after raising questions about inconsistencies in Sebold’s story. Mucciante, who has a legal background, started reviewing the police files; he became even more troubled by discrepancies between the memoir and the facts of the case, to the point where he “couldn’t sleep.” Mucciante ended up hiring a private investigator to investigate further, and the P.I. broke the case. Broadwater’s conviction turns out to have rested on shaky evidence: Sebold had had trouble identifying her assailant—she had initially picked a different man out of a lineup—and the only forensic evidence was a form of hair analysis that the government now considers junk science. Even at the time, the expert witness could only say that the attacker’s hair was “consistent” with Broadwater’s, not that it definitively was his hair.
Broadwater was placed on the New York Sex Offender Registry after his 1999 release, and he remained on it until a few days ago. His case starkly highlights the needless cruelty of sex offense registries.
Broadwater married after prison, but he never had children; he recently told the Syracuse Post-Standard that this was because he didn’t want them growing up with a father with a rape conviction. Meanwhile, the newspaper notes, he was “turned away from countless jobs and educational opportunities over the years for one simple fact: he’s a convicted rapist on the sex offender registry.” This story is familiar to the nearly one million Americans on such registries, who are well-aware that the stigma extends beyond them to their families and all those close to them. Every registrant’s photo, address, and crime are publicly posted, creating inescapable infamy and extremely limited job opportunities.
So Broadwater essentially served two sentences: one in prison, and one on the registry after his release. In New York, where Broadwater was convicted and still resides, a pending Clean Slate bill would automatically expunge criminal records after three years for misdemeanors and seven for felonies, to help those with prior convictions pass background checks
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