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'Lovely Bones' author, Alice Sebold, issues apology to man wrongly accused of rape

Alice Sebold was raped in 1981 whilst she was a student at Syracuse University
Alice Sebold was raped in 1981 whilst she was a student at Syracuse University   -   Copyright  Tina Fineberg/AP
By Tim Gallagher  with AP

The author of “The Lovely Bones” has publicly apologised to a man who was wrongly convicted of raping her in 1981.

Alice Sebold said she was struggling with the role she played in a 'system' that sent innocent man Anthony Broadwater - now aged 61 - to prison for 16 years in 1982.

Broadwater was accused of raping the author, who based her memoir “Lucky” on the experience, while she was a student at Syracuse University. His conviction was overturned this year after prosecutors reexamined the case and determined there were serious flaws in his arrest and trial.

In a statement released to The Associated Press, 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.

The “Almost Moon” author added that at a young age she had chosen to put her 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."

The trials of Anthony Broadwater

"Lucky" tells the story of Sebold’s rape and subsequent encounter with a Black man in the street several months later who she believed was her attacker. When she 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 Broadwater’s arrest, Sebold failed to identify him in a police lineup. Broadwater was put on trial anyway and 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, who was released from prison in 1998, told the AP last week he was crying "tears of joy and relief" after his conviction was overturned by a judge in Syracuse.

Sebold, who has not previously commented on Broadwater's exoneration, said in her statement, "I am grateful that Mr. Broadwater has finally been vindicated, but the fact remains that 40 years ago, he became another young Black man brutalised by our flawed legal system. I will forever be sorry for what was done to him."

In a statement issued by his lawyers, Broadwater, who remained on the New York sex offender’s registry after his release, said he was "relieved that she has apologised."

Publisher Simon & Schuster said Tuesday they had ceased distribution of "Lucky" in all formats and were working with the author to consider how it might be revised.