Alice Sebold, the author of "The Lovely Bones," publicly apologized to a man who was recently exonerated by a judge of raping her in 1981.
In a post published Tuesday on the blogging website Medium, Sebold said she was "truly sorry" to Anthony Broadwater, who served 16 years on a charge that he raped the author, then 18, in a park. Broadwater's conviction was overturned on Nov. 25 after renewed scrutiny of the 1982 trial led a judge to conclude there were serious flaws in the evidence.
“As a traumatized 18-year-old rape victim, I chose to put my faith in the American legal system. My goal in 1982 was justice — not to perpetuate injustice. And certainly not to forever, and irreparably, alter a young man’s life by the very crime that had altered mine," Sebold wrote. "I will remain sorry for the rest of my life that while pursuing justice through the legal system, my own misfortune resulted in Mr. Broadwater’s unfair conviction for which he has served not only 16 years behind bars but in ways that further serve to wound and stigmatize, nearly a full life sentence."
Broadwater told Syracuse.com and The Post-Standard that Sebold's apology was sincere, then cried.
"It comes sincerely from her heart. She knowingly admits what happened. I accept her apology," the now 61-year-old man said. "It’s still painful to me because I was wrongfully convicted, but this will help me in my process to come to peace with what happened."
Sebold wrote about the rape, which occurred when she was a freshman at Syracuse University, in her 1999 memoir "Lucky."
Sebold, who is white, reportedly saw a Black man on the street months after the assault, and subsequently told the police she had encountered her rapist. An officer found Broadwater in the area and determined it must have been him that she recognized.
Though Sebold failed to pick Broadwater out of a lineup, he still went to trial, where she identified him as her rapist. He was also convicted on the basis of microscopic hair evidence, which is now deemed to be junk science.
Broadwater has maintained his innocence since he was first accused, but previously failed in his repeated attempts to overturn his conviction. He was released in 1999 and, until now, remained on the sex offender list in New York.
His case garnered renewed attention when "Lucky" was picked up for a planned film adaptation, and was shortly thereafter taken on by two attorneys, leading to his exoneration.
Broadwater told The Post-Standard that his life was altered by the conviction. He's never had children and has struggled to hold a job.
In her post, Sebold said it took her eight days to comprehend Broadwater's exoneration. The author said she will "grapple with the fact that my rapist will, in all likelihood, never be known," but she would also always regret her involvement in Broadwater's wrongful prosecution.
"He became another young Black man brutalized by our flawed legal system," she said. " I will forever be sorry for what was done to him."