By Michael Caruso:
This story is both remarkable and not. In 1982, Anthony Broadwater was convicted of raping the author Alice Sebold when she was a student at Syracuse University. He served 16 years in prison. Two weeks ago, a court vacated his conviction after prosecutors reexamined the case.
Sebold wrote in 1999′s “Lucky” of being raped and then spotting a Black man in the street several months later who she believed was her attacker. Sebold, who is white, went to the police. An officer said the man in the street must have been Broadwater, who had supposedly been seen in the area. After the police arrested Broadwater, Sebold failed to identify him in a police lineup, picking a different man as her attacker because she was frightened of “the expression in his eyes.”
But prosecutors put Broadwater on trial anyway. He was convicted based largely on Sebold identifying him as her rapist on the witness stand and testimony that microscopic hair analysis had tied him to the crime. That type of analysis has since been deemed junk science by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Broadwater always insisted he was innocent and was denied parole several times for refusing to acknowledge guilt. He took two polygraph tests, decades apart, with experts who determined that his account was truthful.
In a statement, Sebold wrote to Broadwater that she was truly sorry for what he’d been through.“I am sorry most of all for the fact that the life you could have led was unjustly robbed from you, and I know that no apology can change what happened to you and never will,” she wrote.
She wrote that “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.”
Broadwater said he was “relieved that she has apologized.” “It took a lot of courage, and I guess she’s brave and weathering through the storm like I am,” he said. “To make that statement, it’s a strong thing for her to do, understanding that she was a victim and I was a victim too.”
This story is not remarkable in that a man suffered a wrongful conviction because of a misidentification and the introduction of junk science at his trial. The story is remarkable as an example of our capacity to forgive grievous wrongdoing. A lesson for all of us.