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Commentary

Man Imprisoned for 16 Years for Raping Lovely Bones Author Is Exonerated

Source: Emily Horowitz – reason.com – 11/29/21

Anthony Broadwater, now 61, had no idea his accuser achieved fame and fortune while he has been living as a pariah for over 20 years on the sex offender registry.

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.

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