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Picking Cotton: Our Memoir of Injustice and Redemption Hardcover – March 3, 2009
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“Few stories of wrongful convictions have happy endings, but the one told by Ronald Cotton and Jennifer Thompson-Cannino is far different. It is the powerful account of violence, rage, redemption, and, ultimately, forgiveness.” ―John Grisham
“The story of Jennifer Thompson-Cannino and Ronald Cotton, as told in first-person voices in this gripping, well-written book, is exceptional.” ―St. Petersburg Times
“Even the most cynical reader will be impressed with Cotton's resilience and grace.” ―The Washington Post
“Picking Cotton is the nonfiction title you must not overlook this year. It is as compelling as any fiction, yet the truth at its core will move you to tears.” ―The Louisville Courier-Journal
“Picking Cotton is ultimately an uplifting story of hope.” ―The Charlotte Observer
“Few stories of wrongful convictions have happy endings, but the one told by Ronald Cotton and Jennifer Cannino is far different. It is the powerful account of violence, rage, redemption, and, ultimately, forgiveness.” ―John Grisham
“This book will break your heart and lift it up again...a touching and beautiful example of the power of faith and forgiveness. Its message of hope should reverberate far beyond the halls of justice.” ―Sr. Helen Prejean, csj, author of Dead Man Walking
“What happened in this book will change what you think of the criminal justice system in this country, and challenge you to help fix it. Each of them tells an extraordinary story about crime, punishment and exoneration, but it's their shared spiritual journey toward reconciliation and forgiveness that is even more compelling and profound.” ―Barry C. Scheck, Co-Founder and Co-Director of The Innocence Project®
“Few people have done more to put a human face on issues involving wrongful convictions than Jennifer Thompson-Cannino and Ronald Cotton. Yet through their shared pain, they have been able to forge a friendship that most of us search our lives for.” ―Janet Reno, Former U.S. Attorney General
“[A] remarkable testament...powerful...A MUST read.” ―Studs Terkel
About the Author
JENNIFER THOMPSON-CANNINO lives in North Carolina with her family. She 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. Her op-eds have appeared in the New York Times, the Durham-Herald Sun, and the Tallahassee Democrat.
RONALD COTTON lives with his wife and daughter in North Carolina. He has spoken at various schools and conferences including Washington and Lee University, University of Nevada Las Vegas, Georgetown Law School, and the Community March for Justice for Troy Anthony Davis in Savannah, GA.
ERIN TORNEO is a Los Angeles-based writer. She was a 2007 New York Foundation for the Arts Nonfiction Fellow.
The authors received the 2008 Soros Justice Media Fellowship for PICKING COTTON.
Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I liked this but didn't love it - I found Jennifer Thompson frustrating to read, as although I think she is genuinely remorseful and her attack positively horrific.... Read morePublished 10 hours ago by Kass Hall
This was a very moving book! Makes you realize the injustice that can happen. Recommend it!Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
I entitled this review a "A Wake Up Call" because it helps the reader to see and feel the different sides of two people who experienced an awful life changing event! Read morePublished 3 months ago by Kathy Foley
a very interesting book - sad that these things happen but they do.. It is a lot about forgiveness, a good thing/Published 3 months ago by Elizabeth Doherty
Perfect read for aspiring psychologists. However, would recommend to anyone. Regardless of their career and other interests. This is a fairly easy read and very detailed. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Joseph Dietrick