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For nearly four decades, Anthony J Broadwater has insisted on his innocence.

Mr Broadwater, 61, spent the time of his trial, subsequent conviction, 16 years in prison and the years that followed trying to systematically prove that he had not raped award-winning author Alice Sebold when she was a student at Syracuse University in 1981.

He tried at least five times to have the conviction overturned by judges until Monday, when it was finally overturned after a judge determined the wrong man had been sent to jail.

The exemption came after Timothy Mucciante, a producer working on a Netflix adaptation of Sebold’s memoir in 1999 Fortunate, first noticed glaring discrepancies in the prosecution’s record. Mr. Mucciante became skeptical of Mr. Broadwater’s guilt when the first draft of the script differed significantly from the book.

“I started digging around and trying to figure out what really happened here,” he told The Associated Press. His doubts were not about Sebold’s assault, but about the trial “which did not hold water”, he told the New York Times.

Soon after, Mr Mucciante was kicked out of the project, but he nonetheless hired Dan Myers as a private investigator and relied on him to review the evidence. Mr. Myers, who spent 20 years working for the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Office, also became convinced of Mr. Broadwater’s innocence and recommended J David Hammond as his defense attorney.

Mr Hammond told CNN that he and his colleague, Melissa Swartz, listened to the trial transcript and discovered “serious legal issues” prompting them to file a motion to quash the conviction.

Sebold, 58, wrote about the rape in first grade in Syracuse in May 1981 in his memoir. She said she informed campus police shortly after the assault and described the assailant’s characteristics to police. But the resulting sketch did not resemble her recollection of the assailant.

Several months later, when she spotted a black man on a street, she was sure he was her attacker. “He was smiling as he approached. He recognized me. It was for him a walk in the park; he had met an acquaintance in the street, ”writes Sebold in his memoirs. “Hey, girl,” he said. “Don’t I know you from somewhere?” “”

She said she had not responded. “I looked at him directly. I knew his face had been the face above me in the tunnel.

She went to the police again but did not know her name and the police were unable to find him during the initial search. An officer suggested the man on the street must have been Mr. Broadwater, who was supposedly in that area at the time. In her memoirs, she gives him the pseudonym Gregory Madison.

While police arrested Mr. Broadwater, Sebold failed to identify him in a police queue. She chose another man as her attacker because “the expression in his eyes told me that if we were alone, if there was no wall between us, he would call me by my name and kill me” .

Mr. Broadwater, who was 20 at the time, had returned home from a stint in the Marines to spend time with his ailing father.

Although Sebold did not identify him in a police line, Mr. Broadwater was brought to justice. Sebold, who is white, identified him as his witness stand rapist during the trial. By the time of Mr. Broadwater’s arrest and subsequent prosecutions, his father’s health deteriorated. He died shortly after Mr. Broadwater was sent to jail.

The prosecution case at the time was based on two pieces of evidence: Sebold’s testimony and a microscopic hair analysis that linked Mr. Broadwater to the crime. The method has since been discredited by the US Department of Justice.

Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick, who joined the motion to quash the conviction, argued before New York Supreme Court Judge Gordon Cuffy that the misidentification of aliens by eyewitnesses increase dramatically when they cross racial lines and are therefore unreliable.

Arguing that the lawsuits were an injustice, Mr Fitzpatrick said he “was not going to smear this process by saying, ‘I’m sorry. This is not enough … It should never have happened.

Mr Hammond and Ms Swartz, the defense attorneys, argued prosecutor’s misconduct was also a factor, while the district attorney privately apologized to Mr Broadwater ahead of the court hearing .

“When he told me about the harm done to me, I couldn’t help but cry,” Mr. Broadwater said. “The relief that a prosecutor of this magnitude is siding with me in this matter is so deep I don’t know what to say.”

On Monday, Mr Broadwater was visibly overcome with emotion as he buried his head in his hands after the judge overturned the conviction at the request of prosecutors. “I never, ever thought that I would see the day when I would be exonerated,” Mr. Broadwater told the Syracuse-based newspaper. Post-standard newspaper.

Mr. Broadwater had remained on the New York sex offender registry even after he completed his prison term in 1999. He worked as a garbage hauler and handyman in the years following his release. The conviction overshadowed his employment prospects and his relationships with family and friends.

“On both my hands, I can count the people who have allowed me to honor their homes and their dinners, and I am no more than 10,” he told the New York Times.

Although he married a woman who believed in his innocence, Mr Broadwater said he decided not to have children. “We had a big argument sometimes about the kids, and I told him that I could never, ever allow children to come into this world with a stigma on my back,” he told the Associated Press.

Relieved at his acquittal, Mr Broadwater said: “I am so thrilled, the cold can’t even keep me cold.”

He told CNN that if he sympathizes with Sebold, he just hopes there will be “a sincere apology.” “I would accept it. I am not bitter and have no meanness towards her.

Sebold did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment sent through his publisher and literary agency.

Additional reports by agencies


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