Picking Cotton: Our Memoir of Injustice and Redemption
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Picking Cotton: Our Memoir of Injustice and Redemption

4.07 of 5 stars 4.07  ·  rating details  ·  2,690 ratings  ·  528 reviews
Jennifer Thompson was raped at knifepoint by a man who broke into her apartment while she slept. She was able to escape, and eventually positively identified Ronald Cotton as her attacker. Ronald insisted that she was mistaken-- but Jennifer's positive identification was the compelling evidence that put him behind bars. After eleven years, Ronaldwas allowed to take a DNA t...more
ebook, 304 pages
Published January 5th 2010 by St. Martin's Press (first published January 1st 2009)
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Dana
Jennifer Thompson was a senior in college planning to get married when the unthinkable happened. One evening a man broke into her apartment and raped her at knifepoint. Jennifer memorized his face and her quick thinking allowed her to escape. She was able to come up with a composite drawing with the police and later was able to pick out Ronald Cotton in a lineup. Her testimony put him away in jail for a life sentence. A later re-trial would give Ronald two life sentences.

After eleven years Cotto...more
rachel
Between this book and the Paradise Lost documentary, I am kind of appalled at how the US justice system works sometimes, obscuring evidence and convicting to life in prison or the death penalty on the basis of, "well, on paper he looks like the sort of person who might've committed this crime" because he's black or likes heavy metal or whatever.

Jennifer and Ron are top-notch people. And I'm about to volunteer for Amnesty International.
Judy
I'm not a fan of the true crime genre, but am a huge fan of this particular book. Low on gruesomeness, high on forgiveness without being powderpuff or sentimentality, an excellent narrative from both the alleged rapist and rape victim's viewpoint. This book is well-paced and well-done.
Shannon
Feb 14, 2010 Shannon rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who likes true crime.
Recommended to Shannon by: News & Observer
Shelves: 2010
I saw in the newspaper a couple of weeks ago that this book was selected for the 2010 Summer Reading Program for the UNC's incoming freshman and transfer students. So, when I was in the library and saw it on the shelf not far away from our next book club selection, I though "why not?"

This is the story of a woman who was brutally raped while in college who mistakenly identified a man who subsequently was imprisoned for 11 years as her attacker. The man, Ronald Cotton, who was first convicted in J...more
Randy
I’m fascinated by redemption, forgiveness, and the power of being ‘strong at the broken places,’ so Picking Cotton: Our Memoir of Injustice and Redemption by Jennifer Thompson-Cannino and Ronald Cotton with Erin Torneo had me at hello, but it was the complicated shape-shifting of relationships in this story that burned this book into me.

Picking Cotton made me need to be a better person; just reading it allowed me a glimpse into hope.

Jennifer Thompson woke up to a man in her apartment; he raped...more
Cindy Huffman
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mary Whisner
The authors' friendship is improbable and compelling. In 1984 Jennifer Thompson was raped at knifepoint by a stranger who broke into her apartment. She studied the man's face so she could describe him to the police. A tip based on the composite sketch led to Ronald Cotton, whom she identified in a lineup and in court. She was sure of her identification. But 11 years later, DNA testing confirmed his claim of innocence. Cotton was freed from prison.

The book vividly conveys the awfulness of the cri...more
Lisa
I saw an interview with Jennifer Thompson-Cannino and Ronald Cotton on "60 Minutes" about a year ago, and the concept of their book fascinated me: a white woman misidentified her black rapist, sending an innocent man to prison for years. When DNA evidence exonerates him, they meet, he forgives her for her mistake, and they become close friends.

The book delves into a lot more of the darker emotions on both sides: the rage and fear that dominated both Cotton's and Thompson's lives before Cotton wa...more
Mary Rodgers
This is one of the best books I have read in a long time. More importantly it has motivated me to get involved in some way. How I don't know. The other night for various and sundry reasons I did not believe something my 5 year old daughter was telling me. There was no way what she had told me could be true. She was very upset and I was mad she was lying. . Only to confirm Later that indeed she was telling the truth. There was much pain for the both of us. Me feeling horrible about not believing...more
Paisley Cookson
This book was very "Night" by Wiesel ish. I really appreciated it for what it was worth, and overall it gives an amazing message to everyone about how to treat others, and forgiving people for their transgressions. I actually met Ronald and Jennifer at a book signing and have a picture with them which is also pretty cool! I attended a Q&A that they did as well, and they are just two extremely inspirational people. Although it's not exactly a page turner, I would recommend for all older teens...more
Aimen
Recently I have been intrigued by the misdemeanor of law systems. Reading The Count of Monte Cristo relates in that sense. Wrongfully imprisoned for a crime that wasn't committed.
I enjoyed the two-perspective memoir and I enjoyed it even more knowing that it was a recommendation from my psychology teacher.
The writing is different as well, so it didn't seem so fabricated to me. I read this book in one long car drive and it was a very fascinating read. It really made me think about the faults i...more
Allison Herman
Amazing. This book blew me away. It's the story of a woman, Jennifer Thompson, who was raped at knife point in 1984. She points the finger at Ronald Cotton, believing 100% that she has picked the right man. Ronald Cotton is sent to prison and is left to rot there for a crime he claims he did not commit.
Years later, DNA testing becomes commonplace and the results turn both Jennifer's and Ronald's life upside down.
Pam
I finished this yesterday and will be giving it 4 stars. It was pretty eye-opening about the number of overturned convictions. It just seems like we could be doing a better job at setting the innoocent free. It takes money and obviously if you are in prison, you ddo not have access to the resources required to fight this battle. Once again, it appears that are justice systemm has some serious flaws.
Ikdavid
Real life story of a woman who was raped and identified her attacker, only to find out 11 years later that she had identified the wrong person. The book tells the story from both her perspective and the victim's viewpoint, and describes how they later met each other and developed a close friendship, and shared work together to highlight how unreliable eyewitness identification really is.
Dawn
Dec 16, 2013 Dawn rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Dawn by: Linda Johnson
Eye-opening and very human - I liked this book a lot. It was a very quick read for me - written simply and directly by the parties involved.
I was already quite aware of this issue within the criminal justice system. But if you're not, you're going to learn a lot here in a first-person kind of way.
Michelle
Such an incredibly poignant and profound book.
I couldn't put it down, quite literally finishing it in less than a day.
The story of Ron Cotton's trial and subsequent imprisonment for a brutal crime he hadn't committed is a horrifying look at criminal justice systems.
A major underlying theme in this story is blatant and socially accepted racism. The crime was committed in the early 80's but the treatment of Ron Cotton brings to mind the Civil war era.
Jennifer and Ron's story is heartbreaking and...more
Anastasia
This is well-written and is really sucking me in. I can't believe how horrible this is for both of them: one was raped, the other wrongly convicted. Ultimately, though, it is a book of hope, and one well worth reading.
Lee Ann
Loved this book. Even though tried and convicted two separate times, justice did prevail. Thank goodness for DNA!
Stephani Meyers
I read this book in 3 days! It was a very raw account of forgiveness. I would suggest it to anyone.
Julie Farkas
Wonderful book about forgiveness!
Matt
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mad Dog
First off, I hope Jennifer gave Ronald all of the money that she made from this book.

I think the "two voice" concept (using Jennifer(the accuser) and Ronald(the wrongly accused) in separate sections) is a 'cool' approach and gives this story a personal touch (that I assume that many 'true crime' books lack).

I find Ronald to be a compelling and interesting storyteller. I find Jennifer to be annoying. She seems like the type of person that is unabashedly "the star in her own movie". She sure calle...more
Diane
Wow. Despite having heard numerous stories about people who were unjustly imprisoned for years, only to be exonerated by DNA evidence, it was incredibly powerful to read the firsthand accounts of both the accused and the accuser in one such true story. From the start, you know what the book is about and how it is going to end (the subtitle is "Our Memoir of Injustice and Redemption"). Nonetheless, it was suspenseful and infuriating throughout. I would not be able to maintain a positive attitude...more
Amy
I had just started working as an editorial clerk for the Burlington Times-News the summer Ronald Cotton was finally set free. I grew up 15 miles from the Brookwood Condos and was 7 at the time of the rape. So the book is a mix of "ooh, I remember that" and "heh, I don't remember that." The park that Ronald and Jennifer are in at the start of the book is in the neighborhood of my childhood home. So, that said, this book hits home.

I've seen with my own eyes the blatant racism found in Alamance Cou...more
Empress5150
Mar 09, 2011 Empress5150 rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Empress5150 by: Book Club Selection
Interesting for me to report that a book telling the true story of a young woman being raped in her own bed by a home intruder and the subsequent imprisonment of the wrong man for 11 years (based on her unending conviction that he was the rapist) is one I'd rate "Really Liked It", but, I did.

Why? Because, despite the difficulty of reading about her rape and its aftermath AND the fact an innocent man went to prison, there were so many life lessons contained in this well-written, quick-paced read....more
Lisa
Jun 29, 2009 Lisa rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those interested in social justice issues, forgiveness and redemption
Recommended to Lisa by: Terri Gross on NPR's Fresh Air
This is a book about forgiveness cowritten by the two individuals who are the primary subjects along with professional writer Erin Torneo. The book tells the story of Ronald Cotton's wrongful imprisonment for 11 years for a crime he didn't commit after being positively identified as her rapist by Jennifer Thompson-Cannino. He was later cleared by DNA. The book is divided into three sections: Jennifer's version of events, Ronald's version of events, and their version of the events leading up to t...more
Susan
Although I already knew the basic facts of this story from TV coverage, I wanted to read the whole story. When the GR group Book Nook Cafe picked it for the June read, I had to join in.

********Minor Spoiler that you'll know anyway if you read the inside flap of the book *******
Jennifer Thompson was a young woman when a young black man broke into her apartment and raped her at knife point. As it was happening, Jennifer had the presence of mind to try to memorize her attacker's face so that she co...more
Tom
I really liked this book. I finished it in two days. I like both the way it was written, from both of their perspectives, and the story it told. I liked the concurrent storytelling, where first we hear what happened to her and then Ronald's portion will catch us up to where he was, and keep going after her bit ended. I think stories like these are amazing - where people learn to forgive for things like this. I'm all about forgiveness, but someone stealing 11 years of my life might be another dea...more
Kristin (Kritters Ramblings)
Thank you to a blogger who recently reviewed this book, I am sorry I can't remember where I found it. A great read about a young woman who was burglarized and raped in the middle of the night in her college apartment. She went on to identify her attacker who was sentenced to life in prison. After 11 years, a simple DNA test set him free. Now the victim and accuser are friends, yep, crazy - but this makes the book a great read - to find out how it all happens.

When I read the review on the other b...more
Elias Schultz
Picking Cotton written by Jennifer Thompson- Cannino and Ronald Cotton with Erin Torneo, published in 2008 is a true story about a man who was wrongly accused of rape, breaking and entering, and many other charges on different occasions. This story explains how a man spent 11 years wasted in prison on a matter in which he was innocent. The author’s purpose was to create a moving emotional story in how two people can go from hating each other to the point where tears fall and then later on become...more
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Best book ever! 2 13 Dec 08, 2011 09:54AM  
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“I was so hungry for life, but at the same time, it scared me.” 0 likes
“You had to be free in your heart. Guilt, fear, anger—they were all their own kinds of prison. You could be out in the world and still be doing time.” 0 likes
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