Alice Sebold apologizes to exonerated man who spent years in prison for her rape

From CNN:

Author Alice Sebold apologized to a man who last week was exonerated of her rape, a crime she wrote about in her memoir “Lucky,” but the writer also appeared to place as much blame on a “flawed legal system” as she did on the role she played in his conviction.

“First, I want to say that I am truly sorry to Anthony Broadwater and I deeply regret what you have been through,” Sebold, the author of “The Lovely Bones,” wrote in a statement posted on
Broadwater, who has always maintained his innocence, was convicted of the rape in 1982 and spent 16 years in prison. He was denied parole at least five times because he wouldn’t admit to a crime he didn’t commit, according to his attorneys. He tried at least five times to get the sentence overturned, he told CNN.

Last week, a New York State Supreme Court judge exonerated Broadwater and vacated his conviction and other counts related to it. The Onondaga County district attorney joined in the motion to vacate the conviction.

Broadwater was convicted on two pieces of evidence — Sebold’s account and a cross-racial identification — the author is White and Broadwater is Black — and the analysis of a piece of hair that was later determined to be faulty, his attorneys wrote.

In “Lucky,” Sebold wrote that after she failed to identify Broadwater in a police lineup, “a detective and a prosecutor told her after the lineup that she picked out the wrong man and how the prosecutor deliberately coached her into rehabilitating her misidentification,” according to the attorneys’ affirmation that led to Broadwater’s exoneration.

The unreliability of the hair analysis and the conversation between the prosecutor and Sebold after the lineup would probably have led to a different verdict if it had been presented at trial, the attorneys said.

Sebold described the rape, which occurred when she was a freshman at Syracuse University in 1981, in brutally honest detail in “Lucky.” It was published a year after Broadwater was released from prison.
Her publisher Scribner, and its parent company, Simon & Schuster, will stop distributing the book in all formats “while Sebold and Scribner together consider how the work might be revised,” said Brian Belfiglio, Scribner vice president of publicity and marketing, in a statement to CNN.

Link to the rest at CNN

PG hasn’t been in a criminal courtroom in a very long time, but he can’t imagine any prosecutor he ever dealt with way back when doing what Ms. Sebold says the detective and a prosecutor did in her case.

Here’s a link to a post Ms. Sebold made discussing this subject.

12 thoughts on “Alice Sebold apologizes to exonerated man who spent years in prison for her rape”

  1. Of course you can’t imagine it, PG, because you don’t WANT to. That doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, though.

  2. Sadly, I can. Before I was a lawyer, I was a commanding officer and some of the local communities were… not… entirely welcoming of all of the ethnicities under my command. I didn’t see anything get as far as Sebold depicts; I personally saw it get closer than I’m comfortable with, and some of my peers saw it get even closer than that. Two of the dirty little secrets of law enforcement:

    (1) Sheriffs are (almost always) directly elected officials, which puts unfortunate pressure and creates a conflict of interest with dispassionate “just-the-facts-ma’am” professional judgment (however flawed that may be). This is a particular problem in off-base communities with a history of segregation, like every one I was ever assigned at (both within and without the US). It’s also a particular problem in university communities, from a different axis of bias.

    (2) The legal profession has a very… constrained and self-interested… vision of what it should/does take to remove someone from it. There are some classes of ethical prohibitions that everyone knows are potential disbarments; there are others that everyone knows will only place one’s license in peril if getting caught embarasses the profession as a whole and can be written off as a “bad apple.” There is far, far too much “there but for good fortune go I” in the hierarchy of the profession.

    Unfortunately, there are some really perverse incentives that push too many lawyers toward sheeplike violations. (“One” being “too many.”) The use of “conviction rates” as a way of climbing up the career ladder among prosecutors is just one example. Further, the legal profession provides virtually no realistic assistance to lawyers who are shoved into — or, worse, voluntarily place themselves into — circumstances that require choosing a “least-bad option” with incomplete information.

    And lest you think I’m picking on prosecutors here, I’m picking on the whole profession. Just don’t get me started on the fine upstanding senior members of the Bar who represent the fine upstanding insurance carriers for the fine upstanding finance and/or entertainment industry… like the one who tried to prompt his witness at a deposition by helpfully “rewording” my question, after stonewalling on document production while aware of what was in those documents (and not aware that I had them from another source).

    It’s far from a universal problem; lawyers don’t (quite) deserve the public opprobrium they get. Neither do they deserve their inflated self-image.

  3. Well, if Erle Stanley Gardner’s books are realistic, it’s been a problem for quite a while – prosecutors and/or police instructing witnesses who to identify is a common occurrence, especially in his Cool & Lam series.

  4. She says she can’t comprehend how this could have happened. I can. She identified the guy as the rapist in court.

    We recently heard something similar from Alec Baldwin. He doesn’t know how the cinematographer could have been shot with the gun in his hand.

    Lots of incomprehension lately.

    • In today-s world playing dumb gets you pretty far.
      Being dumb gets you farther, even the White House.
      No need to accept responsibility for your deeds.

      Chauncey Gardner times.
      (Something to consider in stories set in thd near future.)

        • My take (and the various reviews I saw) took him as an empty vessel, a screen that reflected what people wanted (without evidence) to see. They saw their delusions in him.

          Hence the title, there was no one there. He was empty of knowlege so people who couldn’t accept reality projected their ideas as his “deep wisdom” vindicating them. I saw a cautionary tale about looking for depth where there is none.

          Today the masses choose to ignore the ample available evidence in order to create their Chaunceys. It helps them pretend the world isn’t what it is. The movie ended the story early.

          • HA! I’ve had the book and the movie sitting in a pile beside me for years now. The pile of books and DVDs contains a thought that I need to think, and Being There is near the bottom of that pile.

            – I suspect that it is time that I think that thought.


            The end of the movie has him walking on water.

            Being There Ending

            BTW, I have found it useful to “Go Chauncey Gardener” on occasion when I need to solve tasks. I find that conscious thought often gets in the way of getting things done. The more “impossible” the task, the less conscious I am the better.

              • Oh, that’s deeply profound.

                I’m suddenly flooded with Image/Seeds of some rather terrifying stories built around characters like Chauncey.

                Seeing the pile of books and DVDs sitting beside me — in the context of Being There and your comments — it suddenly has a coherence. Everything opens wide up.

                That’s quite a shock.


                BTW, In looking at YouTube for related videos I found this:

                Dickman on Leadership: Being There & The Importance of Listening

                The guy is actually using Being There as an example, which shows your point. People in reality are still reading what they want to see from the movie itself.

                Deeply disturbing.

              • I’d say he rose above them all. He was filled with nothing, but they were weighted down with BS. The great plague on the nation is moral and intellectual exhibitionism. Ir’s equal opportunity, affecting both left and right.

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