Sunday, January 17, 2010

Picking Cotton

In 1984 Jennifer Thompson was raped. She spent one hour with her rapist’s face just inches from her own. She made a concerted effort to study her rapist’s face and learn every detail about him. If she lived through the night she wanted to be able to lock this guy up forever. And that is exactly what she did. However after being in jail for eleven years DNA proved that the man she had locked up without any physical evidence, just based on her description, did not commit the rape. Picking Cotton is this story

I’ve always been suspect of human memory, particular when it comes to our justice system. I’ve had personal experiences where my own memory did not line up with other facts. I know that how I remember the incident could not have been the case but somehow my recollection of the events has been altered. My experiences are completely trivial when compared to the eleven years that one man, Ronald Cotton, spent in prison for something that he did not do.

Since his release Cotton and Thompson have become very active in educating police systems at how to avoid the mistakes that happened in their case.

Reading this book was not easy. Sections will and should make you very uncomfortable. The serious miscarriage of justice that happened is not to be taken lightly. Cotton and Thompson’s story will have you squirming in your seats the next time you watch a cop show and they lock somebody up just based on witness identification. Or worse, the next time you hear of a death row inmate being denied a stay of execution and his conviction is based on even less than Ronald Cotton’s conviction.

Far from being bitter about the loss of so much of his adult life Cotton recognized that he and Thompson were victims of the same man, the real rapist Bobby Poole. Their story is one of the most heart warming tales of forgiveness that I have ever read. It will have you questioning a lot of your preconceptions about, justice, memory and what it truly means to forgive.

1 comment:

  1. This is one I need to add to my list. I know how quickly our memories of events change when we are positive they have been indeliably imprinted on our brains. I have to write things down immediately because in only a few minutes the specifics have melted away. Thank you for the review.