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

4.08 of 5 stars 4.08  ·  rating details  ·  3,654 ratings  ·  622 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, Ronald was allowed to take a DNA ...more
ebook, 304 pages
Published January 5th 2010 by St. Martin's Press (first published January 1st 2009)
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Jennifer Thompson was a student at Elon College in Burlington, North Carolina. In the summer of July 1984, Jennifer is awakened from sleep around 3 AM, perhaps by a noise but definitely knowing something was amiss.

”Suddenly a man is on her. Shut up or I’ll cut you!” Jennifer is being raped at knifepoint. Though terrified, she thinks about her choices. ”At five-foot two, I knew I wouldn’t win a physical struggle.”

Jennifer tries to talk him out of it, offering money. She wills herself to note deta
This co-authored true crime memoir depicting the 1984 rape of Jennifer Thompson and wrongful conviction of Ronald Cotton is an emotional and inspiring read.

Thanks to DNA testing, after nearly eleven long years of claiming innocence and fighting "the system", Ronald Cotton is finally and thankfully released for crimes he did not commit. I could feel his frustration as he told his story, and admire his stamina and methods of survival to find his place each time he was shipped off to yet another pr

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
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
Cindy Huffman
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
2.5 stars. I first saw this compelling story on 60 Minutes: A victim of a horrible crime mistakenly identifies her attacker, and wrongfully accuses a man who ultimately spends 11 years of his life in prison for a rape he did not commit. A very personal story, from both victims, told with much earnestness and sincerity, but I think I longed for a little more depth. Perhaps this comes from being a Criminal Justice major, but I wanted there to be more about police procedural background, the science ...more
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
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
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.
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.
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.
Audra Russell
Wow. This book is infuriating, frustrating, heart-breaking and empowering. My soul ran through a gamut of emotions: anger, disgust, fear, rage, guarded hope, utter disappointment. I am still left torn about how to feel for Jennifer. As a woman, I can't imagine the struggles she has gone through after being raped. As a Black woman, I feel immense anger for how she almost destroyed yet another Black man's life. As a human, I admire Ronald's ability to forgive, though I am not so sure I would be ab ...more
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
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
Elaine Kasteler
When I read a book I think of the content and how it is applies to my life today (because to me, isn't it all about me - j/k). The biggest thing I got out of this book was forgiveness and the power of forgiveness. It must be in my universe this week because I've had this subject come up in conversations with different situations like: a son is murdered and his father volunteers to put the killers 4 children through college. A young drunk driver kills a wife and children, the father offers forgiv ...more
Jun 20, 2013 Linda rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Linda by: Bestseller's
Shelves: reviewed, owned
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. 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." ...more
Marjorie Faulstich
Read this book as a possible choice for a "UCLA Common Book" selection for all incoming students.

I was disappointed. The story is framed as being about the unreliability of memory and the power of forgiveness. A woman is raped and picks a man out of a lineup and is convinced throughout his trial that this is the man who raped her. After 13 (?) years in jail the man is exonerated on DNA evidence. The man holds no grudge and the two become friends. So on the one hand it's a sweet redemptive tale.

Darrika Van
This book was Amazing! I don't usually write reviews on book but this book touched my soul! It taught me a lot about forgiveness. It taught me about how God's love for his children is unfailing. It redefined Jeremiah 29:11. God will always be there to help you even when you feel alone! I really don't know how I even came across this book but I am so glad that I "picked" it. It is a emotional tough read with an excellent ending.
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
A MUST read!! A memoir about a man who was wrongfully convicted and a woman who identified him as her assailant. Each chapter portrays their point of view and you can't help but feel their pain. Just wow!
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
Linda Meltzer
Pucking Cotton is the book I am assigned my law students this semester which I know they will find fascinating. I know I did. Picking Cotton tells of the 1984 tragic rape of Jennifer Thompson and her accusation of Ron Cotton, which ultimately resulted in his incarceration for 11 years, despite legitimate appeals, a new trial. I have known about The Innocence Project from its early days but this story provides the first hand experiences of both the rape victim and the mistakènly identified attack ...more
Bob Anderson
An amazing book; one of the few that I have been compelled to stay up late enough to read in its entirety. This double-memoir details both a rape where Jennifer made a concentrated effort to remember the facial details of her attacker, and the process that occurs after she picks out of a police lineup the wrong man, Ronald Cotton, despite all that. It talks about the horror of victimization, the ordeal of prison, and the vagaries of memory and thought. It is powerful, disturbing and uplifting. H ...more
Two lives that are forever altered are speaking out in this combined memoir about their lives and the lives of others affected by a heinous act in the 1980s.

Jennifer awoke in her apartment and was raped at knifepoint. She went on to identify Ronald Cotton as the rapist but it was eyewitness testimony that convicted him, not once, but twice (after a second woman who was raped an hour later but was not part of the initial charges because she couldn't identify him from the lineup). Cotton spent 11
❆ Crystal ❆
This review is for the audiobook version. 4 stars story - 4 stars narration.

The story was very moving. I struggled with Jennifer initially... I think it had more to do with the narrator and less to do with the story. I was a bit worried that something was wrong with me that I was having trouble connecting with her. I finally connected with her once I started hearing Ronald Cotton tell his story. I really, really connected with him and felt more for him.... I felt he was victimized more that Jen
What a fascinating story. I can't imagine the horrible guilt Jennifer must feel in taking 11 years of this mans life. The brutality that she was forced to endure was bad enough but to find out everything she believed was wrong after all that time.... Ronald Cotton was so strong, I have so much respect for how forgiving he was able to be. It never ceases to amaze me how much inner strength some people have. Unbelievable story. This book will be such a great discussion!
I really enjoyed this memoir. I am not well spoken or knowledgeable about the justice system etc so I won't try to sound like I know what I'm talking about when I dont. I will just say it was an interesting read. I was constantly asking myself questions like "what would I do if...?" and "could I have..?" They both lived through something horrible and came away in the end better for it. The emotional scars may never go away completely but they were each able to move on with their lives and forgiv ...more
Grady Ormsby
Mar 30, 2015 Grady Ormsby rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
“I know what I saw. I’m sure that’s what I heard. I remember it clear as day.” We’ve all had those feelings of absolute certainly. Picking Cotton by Jennifer Thompson-Cannino and Ronald Cotton with Erin Torneo will make you rethink the reliability of your perceptions and memory. It will also cause you to redefine your definition of victim. This factual account is divided into three sections. The first is Jennifer’s story of her vicious attack. The second is Ronald’s’ story of his nightmare arres ...more
Everyone should read this book! This is the true story of a man who was wrongly convicted of a crime based on eye witness testimony. And the witness was sure of the identification at the time! DNA later exonerated Mr. Cotton and he was released after serving many years in prison. Everyone should read this to understand a little bit more of how our criminal justice system works, and sometimes doesn't work. Also of interest is that the witness describes her memories in her own words. The most fasc ...more
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“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
“Put a man in a cage with beasts and throw away the key, and it’s usually not very long before the man is a beast himself.” 0 likes
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