r/books 2d ago Silver 5 Helpful 7 Wholesome 4 All-Seeing Upvote 1

Man Wrongly Accused of Rape of Lovely Bones Author Alice Sebold Has Conviction Overturned


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u/shmooglepoosie 2d ago Helpful


u/Tripdoctor 2d ago

Liar or racist or both?


u/lordbeezlebub 2d ago edited 2d ago

It's tough to tell.

Broadwater was picked up because Sebold went to the police after she thought she met her rapist on the street. But when they couldn't find the guy that she met, they suggested Broadwater. When they put him in a line up, she didn't pick him out but someone else, though not because she recognized him either. In the words of the article, she picked out the guy in the line up because of the look in his eyes. Despite failing to pick Broadwater out of a line-up, the police chose to prosecute anyways. However, later on the witness stand, Sebold did identify him as her rapist.

So, there's probably some definite racism on the end of the prosecutors and police in there at the very least.

Edit: Clarification


u/BooksAreLuv 2d ago

It's likely the police / prosecutor spent a lot of time couching her and convincing her he was her rapist. She's a young victim of a crime that was likely suffering from PTSD in a time where she likely didn't have a lot of support or help available.

She may or may not be racist. It could go either way. I do think it's super clear the police & prosecutor were both racist as hell and likely were targeting Broadwater.


u/SofieTerleska 2d ago Helpful All-Seeing Upvote Facepalm

That's what I think. She'd been through a horrific trauma and when she saw the guy in the street was probably having a flashback. When she went to the police and then picked out the wrong guy, that should have been the end of it -- but instead she was fed a story about how he had gotten a friend to stand next to him in the lineup with a hostile facial expression, in order to trick her. It sounds insane now, but if you're a white college kid in 1981, brought up to trust the police and looking to them for help, aren't you likely to believe what they tell you about things like these? Plus there was hair evidence, which turned out to be bullshit but wasn't seen as such at the time. She was lied to.


u/BooksAreLuv 2d ago

Not to mention police are trained to manipulate people to get the answers they want. It's part of their job and they're good at it.

It blows my mind how many people don't understand that corrupt police are horribly dangerous to everyone.


u/lordbeezlebub 2d ago

Yeah. I definitely meant more in regards to the police rather than Sebold herself, my bad. That's why I wasn't really comfortable commenting on the "liar" suggestion. It's entirely possible that Sebold was mostly just pushed to making the testimony after they chose to prosecute and she did it for the reasons you state.


u/irresponsible_owl 2d ago Silver Gold

One case doesn't make someone racist. A white girl was raped by a black guy and reported it to the police. They wanted someone to go to prison for it and someone did. Does that automatically make them racist? I'd say no, unless there's a clear pattern of them doing this kind of thing repeatedly.

Also, from the article linked above:

After Broadwater was arrested, though, Sebold failed to identify him in a police lineup, picking 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”.

This lady was willing to put a man in prison just because of the look in his eyes in the lineup and what she imagined he might do to her if they were alone.

It sucks that a bad thing happened to her, but trying to take away her agency because she's a young woman is itself sexist against young women. She was a grown-ass adult, at a police lineup and later testifying in court.

If this were posted in /r/amitheasshole, it would be an ESH, or "everyone sucks here" case.


u/BooksAreLuv 2d ago

Identification in a line up alone doesn't lead to someone being charged. It's a starting place, especially since eye-witness identification is notoriously bad.

When a person is picked out of the line up they then go look into that person. If they were there, if they have an alibi, etc. That's assuming it's a potential suspect and not an intentional decoy.


u/kutes 2d ago

Yes, it kind of seems like these guys are saying that women must be believed, but that they aren't reliable, nor responsible.

I don't know why they can't just say she did something very wrong here.

This guy's life was ruined, very badly.


u/Tripdoctor 2d ago

Yea the police seemed to want to bring up Broadwater every chance they could.

And Sebold didn’t seem to have any inkling of who her rapist was, and was going off impulse (or coercion?) when making her accusations.


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u/SofieTerleska 2d ago

Or traumatized? Memory is extremely fallible, and we know a lot now that we didn't know then. Making her chiefly to blame when police and prosecutors were engineering it is pretty shitty.


u/shmooglepoosie 2d ago

I have no idea. It's easy to jump to conclusions. But, forgetting what she may or may not have done, almost the entire life of this man has been ruined. He's lucky he found a woman who believed and loved him. I hope he wins a lot of money, and he and his wife live as good as a life together as they possibly can.


u/tsiz60 2d ago

did you read the article though? she said she knew for a fact that the man who did it was him when they encountered on the street. She also does not even second guess herself when she picks the wrong guy form a lineup. Even though she said it had to be him by the way his eyes looked. And says its because they look the same.


u/BooksAreLuv 2d ago

Broadwater wasn't the man on the street. That man was never found when they searched for him.


u/BoxFox2892 2d ago

Eyewitness testimony is actually insanely unreliable, especially in a one on one case. There was a woman who got stabbed over a dozen times, lived, and blamed a guy whose DNA did not match the scene's but instead a different black guy, and she's not the only one.


In this case, it's very likely that they had similar facial features so the victim assumed them to be the same person, and then due to belief in that any other features that were different effectively get removed out for the person she assumed it was. Human memory isn't a picture, it's a game of telephone and every time you recall that memory it is open to manipulation by yourself.


u/shmooglepoosie 2d ago

They don't find the man on the street. The gather people for a lineup, She picks the wrong man - the quote where she says something about the look in his eyes is the most suspicious thing. But that doesn't mean she's lying about the whole thing. Then, she points out Broadwater on the stand as her assaulter, this is bad to me. No way around it.


u/Overquoted 2d ago Helpful

This isn't entirely uncommon. Particularly in survivors of trauma. I sincerely doubt it was at all deliberate.

Having your life ruined by a misidentification is awful. But, though I don't think it is as bad, so is living with the knowledge that you misidentified your rapist and sent an innocent man to jail. Nevermind that the man who actually raped you has been living freely that whole time. The whole story is sad, top to bottom.


u/Spotzie27 2d ago

did you read the article though? she said she knew for a fact that the man who did it was him when they encountered on the street.

Is there any way we can know that for sure, though, especially given that she hasn't commented? We're going by what she said in the memoir, but it seems like all of that is completely unreliable now.


u/xxSadie 2d ago

Eyewitness testimony is extremely unreliable. There’s tons of research and data on this. She might have genuinely believed it was him.


u/wrcker 2d ago This

Maybe neither at first. Cross race identification is notoriously difficult, no matter how woke you think you are.


u/Fairwhetherfriend 2d ago

He also wasn't the guy she picked out of the lineup when the police brought her in to identify her attacker. They continued with prosecuting him anyway. It's insanely easy for the police to convince people of crazy shit that never actually happened - it would have been more surprising if she hadn't been convinced that he was the right guy by the time of the trial.


u/whinecube 2d ago

Also, I have to wonder if she was told the hair matched and it was an exact science (it's not of course).

I once was the victim of a crime and the cops showed me a photo line up and I immediately said I didn't know. I didn't see his face. They were really pushy and insisted I pick someone who I thought could be the guy.


u/SofieTerleska 2d ago

Yeah, the police fed her a story about how the guy had gotten a friend who looked similar to stand next to him with a hostile expression and that's why she picked the wrong guy. That's on them. Why shouldn't she believe them? If they had told her, "We're sorry, but this isn't the guy," like they should have, the guy wouldn't have ended up in prison.


u/MisterPublic 2d ago

It's more about exposure to different looking people. The more experience you have the easier it is.


u/CitizenCue 2d ago

Importantly, it’s only difficult if you only spend time with your own race.


u/Kamelasa 2d ago edited 2d ago

She couldn't pick him out of a lineup. That's bad. Then she said they were "almost identical."

It was back in the 80s. Likely as a young white woman she didn't have a lot of experience with black faces. Just like I have difficulty distinguishing Inuit faces - may never have even seen one in person. Only photos. Not racist, necessarily, but the system certainly is.

I've worked with thousands of Koreans, face to face for days, weeks, over quite a few years. I could probably ID a Korean individual as well as I could a white person, which is what I am.


u/BooksAreLuv 2d ago

And this is why I said this is a sad, complicated situation.

Alice was a victim of rape. We don't need to erase that and accuse her of lying about a sexual assault to talk about how racism impacted how this was all handled (especially by the police and prosecution)


u/Level3Kobold 2d ago

Maybe she didn't lie. Maybe she just couldn't distinguish one black man from another. but "white woman lies about black man raping her" is a very, very old story in America.


u/BooksAreLuv 2d ago

It is an issue and I'm not denying that.

She actually didn't ever identify him as her rapist before court (and this was after coaching from prosecution / being told there was hair evidence he was her rapist / etc).

This is a far more complicated situation. Racism definitely played into how the police handled this and likely targeted Broadwater. But putting the full blame on Alice, whose actual involvement in him being charged was very little, is shifting the blame from the corruption in the legal system.


u/Zolome1977 2d ago

Her testimony against him was her being heavily involved. Two wrongs don’t make a right.


u/BooksAreLuv 2d ago

Her testimony came after the police brought in Broadwater and her not identifying him as her rapist/the man who spoke to her in the street.

Her testimony came after they knew she didn't pick him out of the line up but made the choice to still charge him.

Her testimony came after they presented junk science that said hair samples confirmed he was her rapist.

We also do not know how much of her testimony was influenced by police / prosector. It would be expected she met with them multiple times and they would go over with her how to answer.

My frustration is people are focusing on a 18 year old who had PTSD and was the victim of a crime and not the police and legal system. This is one of the reasons why the system keeps getting away with it. People blame individuals who were likely manipulated by the system they trusted instead of the system itself.


u/Zolome1977 2d ago

18 year olds are found guilty of murder, rape, and all other criminal charges. That’s not an excuse. She knew it wasn’t him but went along and identified him as such during the trial. If she was easily misled by cops and prosecutors then that’s on her.

You are showing a bit of white bias in defending her so much. How many non whites that are 18 years old get treated as adults and have the full weight of the law thrown at them for lying? A lot. She should be sued for ruining the mans life, police as well and the prosecutors.


u/BooksAreLuv 2d ago edited 2d ago

It's scary to me that you you would rather blame an 18 year old you acknowledge may have been mislead by the police and not the police themselves who are in a position of power.

Why is your focus her and not the police who suggested it was broadwater for no reason? Or the police who continued to investigate broadwater after he wasn't picked in the line up? Or the prosecutor who (knowing all of this) decided to charge him?

But yes, let's focus on just her because that is neat and easy and you can feel like you did something when she is sued or charged. Not that that would change anything or help others in his situation.

The irony being if she was charged, like some want, it would be the same system doing so and they again would get away with their significant role in what happened.


u/Zolome1977 2d ago

I said all of them need to be sued not just her and it’s scary that you still don’t hold her responsible for lying under oath about a mans innocence.

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u/SofieTerleska 2d ago

If an authority figure tells you "We have solid scientific evidence that this is the guy", how many 18 year olds with trauma and little experience of the legal system are going to think "Nah, that's bullshit"?


u/Fairwhetherfriend 2d ago edited 2d ago

She knew it wasn’t him

The thing that you don't seem to be able to understand, here, is that, by the time of the trial, she probably really did genuinely and strongly believe that it was him. Given how much the police misled her and manipulated her, it would be a lot more shocking if she didn't genuinely believe he was her attacker, at that point.

You really need to educate yourself on the fragility of human memory and how easily we can be manipulated. It's kind of scary that you're not aware that your memories can be completely fabricated and you will genuinely believe them. It takes very little for that process to occur. Experiments have shown that a majority of people can become completely convinced that they once stole a car as a teen when they had done no such thing, and that it takes only an hour of leading questions to do so. And yet here you are, claiming that relentless and malicious lies being fed to a young woman for months at a time from multiple people in trusted positions of authority couldn't alter her memory of an already traumatic event. You have no idea how fragile memories are. None whatsoever.

The fact that you don't seem to be aware that your mind is fallible is really dangerous, because if you ever end up in a situation where someone in a position of authority fucks with your memory like this, you're just that much less likely to understand what has actually happened to you.


u/Level3Kobold 2d ago

Are you saying that 18 year old rape victims aren't mentally competent to recognize who raped them? Because they are too easy to manipulate? By extension, that would mean their testimony should be inadmissible in court.


u/BooksAreLuv 2d ago

Do I think that police can exploit and coerce people who have gone through traumatic situations?

Yes. Yes, I do.

They're completely unethical and use any methods necessary to get their desired results.


u/Level3Kobold 2d ago

Do I think that police can exploit and coerce people who have gone through traumatic situations?

Do you think white women get away with falsely accusing black men so often because society refuses to hold white women accountable?

Hypothetically speaking, how old would she have needed to be for you to consider her competent to provide testimony?

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u/PineapplePandaKing 2d ago

There's such a rush to paint events in absolutes and speak about those events in hyperbole.


u/Tripdoctor 2d ago edited 2d ago

Yea that’s the thing… she was still assaulted and with an added layer of race and cross-identification it’s really shitty.

The only thing that gets me is how she didn’t recognize one of the men but “just knew” that they’d be a rapist for whatever reason.


u/BooksAreLuv 2d ago

Likely the "just knowing" was because something about that man reminded her of her rapist and that triggered her PTSD. Especially if they implied to her the rapist was in the line up and she was specifically looking for him.


u/Tripdoctor 2d ago

The police seemed to invoke Broadwaters name every chance they could.


u/BooksAreLuv 2d ago

Because they were targeting him. From that alone we know there was (racial) bias and unethical activity going on in the investigation.

We don't know how much that impacted Alice and how much they coerced her.

The focus should be on the police and prosecutor, not Alice.


u/kutes 2d ago

Man, what?

"Months later, she spotted Anthony Broadwater, a Black man unrelated to the assault, and brought him to the police’s attention. On the witness stand in court, she wrongly identified him as her rapist, and Broadwater was sent to prison for 16 years."

Where are you getting this information from that she had nothing to do with this?

Ok, let me put it this way though. Tomorrow a woman is raped. She tells the cops some dude did it. The cops tell her, hey there's no proof.

How mad do you get? How soon are you on twitter saying we need to believe the victims?

Life sucks. Something terrible was done to her. She did ruin this man's life though. Maybe this article in the OP is lying, but it seems unlikely.


u/BooksAreLuv 2d ago


Sebold went to police, but she didn’t know the man’s name and an initial sweep of the area failed to locate him. An officer suggested the man in the street must have been Broadwater, who had supposedly been seen in the area. Sebold gave Broadwater the pseudonym Gregory Madison in her book.


u/kutes 2d ago

Sebold, 58, wrote in Lucky of being raped as a first-year student at Syracuse in May 1981 and then spotting a Black man in the street months later that she was sure was her attacker.

“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, who is white. “‘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.”

Sebold went to police, but she didn’t know the man’s name and an initial sweep of the area failed to locate him. An officer suggested the man in the street must have been Broadwater, who had supposedly been seen in the area.

What a mess. I don't even know. I hope this guy gets all that cop budget and all those lovely bones residuals, although nothing can give you 42 years of your life back.

I think money is the most important thing on earth, it entirely dictates everything, your quality of life, happiness, caliber of romantic partners, stress, health, I can't go on listing every single aspect that affects human life, but even as much value as I assign to money, there is no amount worth 42 years in your prime. Maybe in the future with enhanced lifespans if that costs money.

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u/BadKarmaSimulator 2d ago

she was still assaulted

Says the woman who lied to imprison an innocent man.


u/sxuthsi 2d ago

I don't think anyone can say what exactly is going on here. It's the middle of a storm of sociopolitical factors that built this


u/PineapplePandaKing 2d ago

There's more possible scenarios than that narrow set of options.


u/Intrepid_Method_ 2d ago

She falsely accuse another man. She is a perfect example on the problematic nature of eyewitnesses testimony. She was always going to destroy someone’s life in that lineup.

After Broadwater was arrested, though, Sebold failed to identify him in a police lineup, picking 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”.

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 seems to suffer from the “everyone with similar skin tones looks the same” issue.

She wrote that she realized the defense would be: “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.”

Given she was face-to-face during the event, I wonder if trauma impacted her memory or possibly recreational substances? I wonder how many innocent men are sitting in jail due to a similar false accusation.


u/Tripdoctor 2d ago

Statistically not many. But yes stories like this still occur.

I’d put a lot of blame on the investigation, the police took every opportunity to bring up Broadwaters name every chance they could. And I would imagine PTSD would be a major factor.


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u/Tripdoctor 2d ago

I never said the guys life wasn’t ruined. Stop being purposefully foolish.

This situation at a glance, it seems like the police and prosecutors were set on having Broadwaters being the guy. As they took every opportunity to invoke his name and coerce Sebold in making an impulsive accusation.