The 1981 lineup where Alice Sebold picked another man as her rapist

The 1981 lineup that led to the WRONG man being jailed for raping Lovely Bones author: Alice Sebold, then 19, chose a different man for attack that inspired her memoir Lucky – but was told by the COPS that she got it wrong

  • Anthony Broadwater, 61, spent 16 years behind bars for raping Alice Sebold in a park in Syracuse in 1981  
  • She reported the attack to police at the time and in a lineup, identified a different man as her attacker
  • The cops were convinced that Broadwater was her attacker and they told her she’d picked the wrong man
  • She later said they were ‘identical’ and that Broadwater was her attacker; she identified him in the courtroom
  • He was convicted on that identification and flimsy hair analysis that the DoJ now wouldn’t rely on 
  • The rape was the subject of Sebold’s 1999 memoir Lucky, which she sold over 1million copies of 
  • Broadwater was released from prison in 1999; he lived quietly, as a ‘pariah’ because he had a rape conviction 
  • In 2019, the conviction started to unravel when producers started turning Lucky into a movie
  • Script writer Tim Mucciante noticed ‘inconsistencies’ with the narrative and he hired a private investigator
  • That PI took their findings to a pair of defense attorneys who represented Broadwater in court on Monday 
  • He is now asking for an apology from Sebold; she is yet to comment on the exoneration  

The Lovely Bones author Alice Sebold selected a different man as her rapist in a 1981 police lineup than the one who ended up going to jail for 16 years, but was led by police to think she had chosen the ‘wrong’ man. 

The lineup emerged on Wednesday, two days after Anthony Broadwater – the man who was jailed for 16 years for the attack – had his conviction overturned by a judge. 

In 1981, Sebold was raped in a park near Syracuse University, where she was a 19-year-old freshman in college. The attack was the subject of her 1999 memoir, Lucky, which sold over 1million copies and kickstarted her literary career. 

She told police at the time about the rape then months after it, when they’d failed to locate him, saw a man in the street who she was convinced was her attacker. Broadwater was in the area at the time of the run-in with the alleged rapist, so he was brought into the investigation. 

At a lineup shortly afterwards, she was asked to identify the rapist but she picked the man standing next to Broadwater. 

Cops told her afterwards that she had ‘failed to identify the suspect’ because she didn’t pick Broadwater, the man they were sure she’d walked past in the street. The police extracted one of his pubic hairs to run a DNA analysis on him and they used that hair analysis to convict him. In court, she identified him as her attacker and in her book, she explained the discrepancy as a mistake because he was ‘identical’ to the man she did pick. 

On Monday, the conviction was overturned on the basis that she’d picked a different man in the police lineup, and because she DNA analysis that was used is now considered junk science by the Department of Justice. 

Sebold is yet to comment on the exoneration which only happened this week after a producer working on a Netflix adaptation of Lucky hired a private investigator because he was dubious of some of the ‘inconsistencies’ in the memoir.  

In Lucky, Sebold describes the lineup and how she was convinced that it was the man standing in position five who had raped her because he ‘looked at’ her, though she was standing behind a glass panel and they could not see her.

This is the 1981 line up of black men that Alice Sebold was told to choose from. Anthony Broadwater is the second from the right, fourth along in the lineup. She picked the man next to him, who was in the fifth position, but was then told by police she had ‘failed to identify the suspect’. They were convinced it was Broadwater and she later changed her identification in court, naming him as her attacker. The man in fifth position has not been named and it’s unclear why he was in the lineup 

Lovely Bones author Alice Sebold, left, is yet to comment on the exoneration of Anthony Broadwater, pictured right in court on Monday. She is now 59 and he is 61

‘Five black men in almost identical light blue shirts and dark blue pants walked in and assumed their places. “It’s not one, two, or three,” I said,’ she wrote in her memoir. 

Sebold detailed the assault in her 1999 memoir, Lucky – her first of three books – which was in the process of being adapted as a film for Netflix. The fate of the film adaptation following Broadwater’s exoneration is currently unknown

Broadwater was standing in position four. 

‘I stood in front of number four. He was not looking at me. While he looked toward the floor I saw his shoulders. Wide like my rapist’s, and powerful. 

‘The shape of his head and neck – just like my rapist’s. His build, his nose, his lips. I hugged my arms across my chest and stared.

‘I moved on to number five. His build was right, his height. And he was looking at me, looking right at me, as if he knew I was there. Knew who I was. The expression in his eyes told me that if we were alone, if there were no wall between us, he would call me by name and then kill me…. I approached the clipboard… I placed my X in the number five box. I had marked the wrong one,’ she wrote.  

After the lineup, she was told by a Sergeant Lorenz, that she picked out the wrong person.

‘Alice, it’s my duty to inform you that you failed to pick out the suspect,’ she quoted him saying. 

‘He did not tell me which one was the suspect. He couldn’t. But I knew. I stated for the record that in my opinion, the men in positions four and five were almost identical.’ 

She then described how the then Assistant District Attorney Gail Uebelhoer came into the room and said: ‘Well, we got the hair out of the bastard,’ referring to Broadwater. 

In Lucky, Sebold wrote that she believed she had made a mistake in the police lineup. She went on to identify him in court and he was jailed. 

Sebold wrote in Lucky how she was attacked from behind by a man in the park in Syracuse when she was a college student in 1981. She describes over several pages in graphic detail how he raped her then let her go, telling her she was a ‘good girl’ and apologizing for what he’d done. The book sold over 1million copies and propelled her career

Broadwater, now 61, was paroled in 1999. He has since lived as a ‘pariah’, working as a trash hauler because he couldn’t get any other type of work. He got married and wanted to have children but didn’t, because he was too afraid of them having to bear the stigma of his rape conviction. 

In court on Monday, he told the judge: ‘On my two hands, I can count the people that allowed me to grace their homes and dinners, and I don’t get past 10. That’s very traumatic to me.’ 

Producer Tim Mucciante called in a private investigator to look into the case because he was so alarmed by the inconsistencies in the memoir

The case unraveled in 2019 after Sebold agreed to have Lucky turned into a movie for Netflix. 

Timothy Mucciante, a producer and script writer, signed on to the project but he was quickly suspicious of the details. 

‘I started poking around and trying to figure out what really happened here,’ Mucciante told The Associated Press earlier this week. 

It’s not clear exactly what those inconsistencies are but he hired a private investigator who then gave their findings to a pair of defense attorneys. 

They filed an appeal, and the case returned to court on Monday. 

Onondaga County DA William Fitzpatrick apologized to Broadwater, and said: ‘This should never have happened’. 

 In 2002, she published The Lovely Bones – another story based around child kidnap and rape. It sold over 5million copies in America alone, grossing $60million in sales, and was turned into a blockbuster Hollywood movie in 2009 starring Saoirse Ronan, Stanley Tucci and Mark Wahlberg. 

Broadwater broke down in tears as the conviction was expunged. He is now asking for an apology from Sebold, who is yet to comment. 

‘I just hope and pray that maybe Ms. Sebold will come forward and say, “Hey, I made a grave mistake,” and give me an apology. I sympathize with her, but she was wrong.’    

Sebold wrote in Lucky of being raped as a first-year student at Syracuse in May 1981. 

‘This is what I remember. My lips were cut. I bit down on them when he grabbed me from behind and covered my mouth. He said these words: “I’ll kill you if you scream.” I remained motionless. “Do you understand? If you scream you’re dead.” 

‘I nodded my head. My arms were pinned to my sides by his right arm wrapped around me and my mouth was covered with his left.’

She goes on to describe the rape in graphic detail, how she had to talk to the rapist to encourage him, telling him he was a ‘good man’ and how she wished it to be over. 

She wrote how he then apologized in tears once the attack was over, and told her she was a ‘good girl’. 

Broadwater, 61, shook with emotion, sobbing as his head fell into his hands, as the judge in Syracuse vacated his conviction at the request of prosecutors

Broadwater, pictured her in court on Monday, said he was still crying tears of joy and relief over his exoneration the next day

Sebold describes running back to her dorm, confiding in her friends that she was just ‘beaten and raped’ in the park. 

‘My face smashed in, cuts across my nose and lip, a tear along my cheek. My hair was matted with leaves. My clothes were inside out and bloodied. My eyes were glazed,’ she said. 

Months later, she said she spotted a black man in the street and thought it was him.  

How Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones rocketed her to literary stardom 

Alice Sebold was writing her hugely successful novel The Lovely Bones, about the rape and murder of a teenage girl, in the late 1990s when she found herself having to abandon that project so she could complete her own memoir about how she was raped as student.

She said years later that she wanted the dead narrator of her novel, Susie Salmon, to ‘tell her own story,’ while her memoir, Lucky, would be the ‘real deal’ about rape.

That memoir was published in 1999 three years before her novel and received great critical acclaim.

But it would be The Lovely Bones (2002) that would launch her into literary stardom after it became an instant classic.

The novel starts with the arresting line: ‘My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973.’

The book is told in the voice of Susie, a dead girl speaking from heaven after she has been raped and murdered.

Susie tells the harrowing tale of her vicious abduction and murder in a cornfield near her home and observes the events which follow.

How her dismembered elbow is discovered in the field in a patch of blood, but her body is nowhere to be found.

This allows her parents to harbor a vain hope that she will be found alive.

The portrayal of her family suffering the immense grief of losing their child was what made the novel a hit with critics.

The New York Times’s Michiko Kakutani described it as ‘a deeply affecting meditation on the ways in which terrible pain and loss can be redeemed.’

But others found Susie’s ability to flit between heaven and Earth an unconvincing plot device.

The ghost of the girl is glimpsed by family members as they walk around corners in their house. 

And she even enters the body of a school friend who is making love to her own former sweetheart.

The novel was immensely popular, particularly with teenage girls and women.

English author Joan Smith attacked the novel’s ‘apple-pie sentimentality’, saying it was sickly sweet.

Literary critic Philip Hensher described the book as ‘a slick, overpoweringly saccharine and unfeeling exercise in sentiment.’

The novel went on to win the American Booksellers Association Book of the Year Award for Adult Fiction in 2003 and was made into a movie by fantasy-loving director Peter Jackson starring Saoirse Ronan, Susan Sarandon and Stanley Tucci.

The Lovely Bones has influenced an entire sub-genre of Young Adult (YA) fiction known derisively as ‘sick lit’, which has enduring popularity to this day.

Commonly it is fiction which revolves around the afterlife where protagonists are killed early on in the narrative, finding themselves in a strange ghost world.

The hugely successful Twilight Saga, a series of fantasy romance novels by Stephenie Meyer, were influenced by Sebold’s work.

‘He was smiling as he approached. He recognized me. It was a stroll in the park to him; he had met an acquaintance on the street,’ wrote Sebold. ‘”Hey, girl,” he said. “Don’t I know you from somewhere?”‘

She said she didn’t respond: ‘I looked directly at him. Knew his face had been the face over me in the tunnel.’  

In their motion to vacate the conviction, the defense attorneys Hammond and Swartz argued that the case relied solely on Sebold’s identification of Broadwater in the courtroom and a now-discredited method of hair analysis.

They also said that prosecutorial misconduct was a factor during the police lineup because a lawyer had falsely claimed to Sebold that Broadwater and the man standing next to him were friends who looked alike and had purposely appeared together to trick her.  

The attorneys said this false claim had tainted Sebold’s later testimony.   

Mucciante hired a private investigator earlier this year, who put him in touch with J. David Hammond, of Syracuse-based CDH Law, who brought in fellow defense lawyer Melissa Swartz, of Cambareri & Brenneck. 

Hammond and Swartz credited Fitzpatrick for taking a personal interest in the case and understanding that scientific advances have cast doubt on the use of hair analysis, the only type of forensic evidence that was produced at Broadwater’s trial to link him to Sebold’s rape. 

The fate of the film adaptation of ‘Lucky’ was unclear in light of Broadwater’s exoneration. A messages seeking comment was left with its new executive producer, Jonathan Bronfman of Toronto-based JoBro Productions. 

Messages to Sebold seeking comment were sent through her publisher and her literary agency.

Broadwater remained on New York’s sex offender registry after finishing his prison term in 1999.

Broadwater, who has worked as a trash hauler and a handyman in the years since his release from prison, told the AP that the rape conviction blighted his job prospects and his relationships with friends and family members. 

Even after he married a woman who believed in his innocence, Broadwater never wanted to have children.

‘We had a big argument sometimes about kids, and I told her I could never, ever allow kids to come into this world with a stigma on my back,’ he said. 

Broadwater was a pariah because he remained on the sex offender’s list. 

‘On my two hands, I can count the people that allowed me to grace their homes and dinners, and I don’t get past 10. That’s very traumatic to me.’

Sebold wrote in Lucky that when she was informed that she’d picked someone other than the man she’d previously identified as her rapist, she said the two men looked ‘almost identical.’

She wrote that she realized the defense would be that: ‘A panicked white girl saw a black man on the street. He spoke familiarly to her and in her mind she connected this to her rape. She was accusing the wrong man.’  

Broadwater described how his life was destroyed by the false conviction. 

He had just returned home to Syracuse in 1981, aged 20, after serving in the Marine Corps in California. He had gone home because his father was ill, he said. 

His father’s health worsened during the trial, and he died shortly after Broadwater was sent to prison.

Sebold spotted him in the street five months after her attack, said he could be her attacker, and he was arrested. Sebold reported her attack immediately and evidence was collected from a rape kit.

She described her attacker to the police, but the resulting composite sketch did not resemble him. Sebold did not identify him in a lineup, but later said she was confused.

Sebold said she pointed out a different man as her attacker because ‘the expression in his eyes told me that if we were alone, if there were no wall between us, he would call me by name and then kill me.’ 

Broadwater broke down in tears on Monday after being officially exonerated by Supreme Court Justice Water T. Gorman in a Syracuse court. 

‘I never, ever, ever thought I would see the day that I would be exonerated,’ Broadwater told The Post-Standard of Syracuse after the emotional hearing.

The district attorney apologized to Broadwater privately before the court hearing.

‘When he spoke to me about the wrong that was done to me, I couldn’t help but cry,’ Broadwater said. 

‘The relief that a district attorney of that magnitude would side with me in this case, it’s so profound, I don’t know what to say…I’m so elated, the cold can’t even keep me cold,’ Broadwater said.

The assault allegedly took place at Syracuse University in 1982, Sebold said

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