Picking Cotton: Our Memoir of Injustice and Redemption MP3 CD – Audiobook, MP3 Audio, Unabridged
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"[A] remarkable testament.... A MUST read." ---Studs Terkel, author of Touch and Go
About the Author
Ronald Cotton has spoken on the topic of criminal justice and its flaws at various schools and conferences, including Washington and Lee University and Georgetown Law School.
Jennifer Thompson-Cannino speaks frequently about the need for judicial reform and is a member of the North Carolina Actual Innocence Commission, the advisory committee for Active Voices, and the Constitution Project.
Erin Torneo, a writer based in Los Angeles, is coauthor of The Bridal Wave: A Survival Guide to the Everyone-I-Know-Is-Getting-Married Years.
Richard Allen is a five-time Audie-nominated narrator whose work has been acknowledged on the Best Audiobooks Lists for Audiofile and Library Journal.
Karen White has been narrating audiobooks since 1999, with more than two hundred to her credit. Honored to be included in AudioFile's Best Voices and Speaking of Audiobooks's Best Romance Audio 2012 and 2013, she is also an Audie Award finalist and has earned multiple AudioFile Earphones Awards and Library Journal starred reviews.
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Jennifer's attention to detail resulted in the well-executed police artist sketch that would lead to the quick arrest of Ronald Cotton, a local man, as the man who raped her and another woman on the same night.
Cotton was not at all worried when his family told him the Burlington Police Department wanted to speak with him in connection with the two rapes. He knew he had a rock-solid alibi for the night in question, so he drove himself to the police station in order to prove that he had nothing to do with either crime. Unfortunately for Cotton, he got his dates mixed up, making his supposed alibi worthless, and he was charged with both rapes.
The trial jury recognized Cotton's resemblance to the police sketch and considered Thompson to be an exceptional witness because of her decision to concentrate on her assailant even as the assault against her was happening. Her strong trial testimony, during which she appeared to be absolutely certain of Cotton's guilt, was all the jury needed to convict Cotton of her rape, and they quickly did just that.
Eleven years later, in 1995, DNA testing would prove that Ronald Cotton had nothing to do with Jennifer Thompson's rape and he was freed from prison, a dream that Cotton had all but given up on ever seeing happen. Ronald Cotton, now in his early thirties and lucky to have survived more than a decade in prison, was back with his family hoping to start a new life for himself.
Tragic as all of this is, it is far from being a unique story because, sadly, this kind of thing happens more than anyone in law enforcement would care to admit. Thousands of people have been imprisoned with no more evidence against them than the word of their accuser. Honest mistakes are made, lies are purposely told, and justice is not always blind.
No, the truly remarkable part of this story is what happened next.
Jennifer Thompson, married and the mother of triplets by the time of Cotton's release, feared that he would take his revenge by harming her or her children. Two years passed before the two of them finally came face-to-face but, when it did happen, both their lives were changed forever. Cotton, an extremely compassionate man, surprised Thompson by readily offering his forgiveness in their first conversation - and that would be the beginning of a powerful, loving friendship between the two and their families that is still going strong.
Today Cotton and Thompson work together to bring attention to other inmates around the country who have been imprisoned under circumstances similar to those that placed Ronald Cotton in jeopardy of spending his whole life in a jail cell. Much good has come from the awful circumstances that have linked forever the lives of these two people, and Thompson and Cotton have both thanked God that Cotton is the one she chose that day in the Burlington police station if she was destined to get it wrong.
Read "Picking Cotton" to get the rest of the story - there's a lot more.
Through the account, we understand Jennifer's anquish and sense of violation. From the beginning, Ron seems a remarkable person never bitter about his circumstances, but still missing parts of life many would take for granted such as birthdays, anniversaries, funerals.
A documentary for PBS is made about Cotton's case. At the end, he questions that Jennifer has never contacted him. When she does (after watching the documentary) she is surprised by his acceptance of her. Eventually, the two work together on other cases of injustice throughout the United States.
The book presents serious questions about the criminal justice system - especially the validity of eyewitnesses. No easy answers. Just two people now working together to change the world one case at a time.
On par with Sister Helen Prejean's Dead Man Walking.
Ronald Cotton did not rape Jennifer Thompson. She was sure he did-she would never forget that face-and two separate juries found her identification so compelling that Mr.Cotton was twice convicted and sentenced to life. He was exonerated by DNA after eleven long years in prison. "Picking Cotton", co-authored by both victims, is more than just another tale of a misfiring justice system. It is also a powerful story of grace and forgiveness. Not only has Mr. Cotton forgiven Ms. Thompson for her mistaken identification of him, but he has become her friend. He truly is a remarkable man. Ms. Thompson is also quite remarkable. She travels the country with Mr. Cotton, telling their story, and warning of the dangers of identification testimony. She has championed changes in identification procedures used by police to make them more fair and has seen such changes enacted in her home state of North Carolina, the scene of the crime. "Picking Cotton" is a cautionary tale that should be required reading in every police academy and law school in the country.
Amazingly, Cotton was stunned one day in prison to see a familiar face from where he had previously lived. Not only was the face familiar, but it also was similar to his own. Hearing that the individual confessed to Cotton's crime while in the same prison, Cotton pressed for a retrial. Again, he was wrongly identified as the culprit and convicted.
Eventually, Cotton became aware of DNA testing, pressed for testing evidence from the rape, and was exonerated. Ms. Thompson, feeling extremely remorseful for her mis-identification that had convicted Cotton, asked to meet him. He forgave her, and they now work together to improve the state's system for identifying suspects. (Cotton also works at an insulation factory.)
The unanswered question, of course, is "How many other Ronald Cottons are there wrongfully imprisoned, or worse?"
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