Picking Cotton: Our Memoir of Injustice and Redemption by Jennifer Thompson-Cannino and Ronald Cotton is the well told story of the two authors. Jennifer was a college student in 1984 when a knife-wielding man broke into her apartment and raped her. She works to remember her assailant so she can identify him. She identifies Ronald Cotton. Due to appeals, Jennifer is staunch in her identification of Cotton through a second trial after which Cotton is sentenced to Life Imprisonment plus 54 years. Because of the OJ Simpson murder trial, Cotton learns of a new test that may prove the innocence he has professed from the night he turned himself into the police "to straighten out this situation." The new test is DNA. After 11 years in prison, Cotton is exonerated through a combination of the DNA test results and the confession of the rapist. The story could have ended there, but does not. Cotton proves to be a true Christian in forgiving the woman he could have hated for the rest of her life. As profound as Sister Helen Prejean's Dead Man Walking. Two admirable people making the world more just.
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.