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

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  5,662 ratings  ·  837 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
Hardcover, 298 pages
Published March 3rd 2009 by St. Martins Press-3PL (first published January 1st 2009)
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4.15  · 
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 ·  5,662 ratings  ·  837 reviews

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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

Apr 01, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 08, 2009 rated it it was ok
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
J.C. Ahmed
Apr 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's crazy to think someone can be sent to prison for life (or in some cases get the death penalty) on nothing more than a victim or witness picking them out of a lineup, despite how fragile human memory can be. When Jennifer Thompson picked Ronald Cotton out of a lineup, she was certain she had the right man. Cotton was sentenced to life in prison based solely on her testimony. Nothing else tied him to the crime. Juries are supposed to convict only if it's proven beyond a reasonable doubt the a ...more
Marjorie Faulstich
Jan 17, 2011 rated it it was ok
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.

Kira Simion
Feb 21, 2017 marked it as to-read
So a while ago there was an interesting 60 minute show about this report of trauma and mistake in identity. I found it intriguing how this woman could be so brave as to try and memorize her rapist's face, but her mind may have had so much trauma that her mind blocked some of the memory. As a result, as she was trying to pick the culprit from a line up, many new points and improvements for line ups in general were made.

I'm intrigued and so I hope to see how this story is told.
Therese Wiese
Aug 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
True story of a woman raped, and a man falsely accused, in the days before DNA testing was being done. Amazing story of forgiveness. Spoiler here - the truth does eventually come out, and these two become friends. If I was Mr Cotton, I'm not sure I could have forgiven her. But if I was Ms Thompson, I'm not sure I could forgive myself. Very inspiring story, and first hand insight into the justice system.
Jonna Ventura
Feb 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
This story deserves to be told and that's why I am giving it 4 stars. The subtitle says injustice and redemption and you feel every bit of both. The experience of being able to walk in both of their shoes leads you to ask of yourself some hard questions. What would you have done? How would you have felt? It's thought provoking and shines light on a much larger problem that plagues our justice system.
Cindy Huffman
Dec 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own, 2018
Quick, easy read.

What I like about this book is the authors made this book informative but also appealing to read for a broad audience. The accounts in the book are their personal stories, written by them, and not over technical where it would scare people off.

Jennifer Thompson is raped in her apartment and vows to identify her rapist. The police show her a photo line up and a physical line up - both where she picks Ronald Cotton. Cotton is found guilty and since he professes his innocence, ends
Liza Fireman
Apr 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
Picking Cotton is not only a wonderful book and an amazing story, it is also important that each and every one of should read. It is a true and scary story, scary how we cannot and should not believe our own eyes, how we cannot trust our eyes or our memory, how even if we are really trying to pay attention to every detail we can get it all wrong, and why we should be so careful not to rely only on eye witnessing in court. So many innocent people are wrongly convicted all around the world by eye ...more
Jun 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Nov 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book really captured the injustice of what happened to these two people - the horror of being raped, and the horror of being incorrectly incarcerated. It truly is inspiring to see how they both, Cotton in particular, recover from the injustice. And the book gives one much to think about related to the justice system, the total unreliability of eye witness testimony, most obviously, but also the experience of a falsely accused, not-squeaky-clean young black man. It is disturbing. This is in ...more
Jun 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
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.
Kathryn Lethig
Apr 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
When starting this book I was nervous, primarily of the way it would portray rape victims or its effect on victim testimony in a time when so many rapists walk free. Written by both the victim, Jennifer Thompson-Cannino and the man who was wrongfully convicted, Ronald Cotton, this book gave amazing points of view. This book showed how Jennifer suffered from her rape, her recovery, and also how defenders and her friends and family in her every day life would often "victim blame". From Ronald Cott ...more
Brandi Breezee
Feb 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great read and a raw look at how wrongful convictions affect both parties. The good that resulted from the post conviction exoneration of Ronald Cotton was strikingly beautiful. I loved the relationship they formed and the light they worked towards in regards to wrongful convictions. A very worthwhile read.
Feb 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Compelling memoir. It is a sad yet hopeful story and I'm glad I read it.
Alicia Thompson
Feb 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Feb 04, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Feb 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019, non-fiction
This is a book I won't forget. It's a true and compelling story about a terrible crime, a wrongful conviction, and forgiveness. I couldn't put it down. There's nothing special about the writing, but the story carries the book.

If you're a fan of this book, you have GOT to read Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. Stevenson is an absolute hero of a guy, working for almost nothing, fighting for the unjustly convicted or unfairly sentenced souls on death row.
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
Dec 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
What an amazing true story! Ronald was tried and found guilty twice of rape . Beginning in 1985, he was identified by his victim, Jennifer Thompson, for a heinous crime which he did not commit. Sentenced to two lifetimes plus 50 years in prison, this memoir tells of the eleven years he spent in prison and the final outcome.
Told by both the accused and victim, this is a great story of injustice, redemption, compassion and forgiveness.
A hard book to put down, and one that will stay with you long
Jan 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This was a great book. It's a fascinating story of a wrongful conviction told by both the victim and the wrongfully convicted. I listened to the audiobook and really enjoyed it. It will make you a little emotional at times, but it's very inspirational. I felt compassion for both Jennifer and Ron, and they were on completely opposite ends of the story. I admire their relationship, and I hope to be as graceful (gracious?) as both of them in my own life. Their story made both of them become pursuer ...more
Mar 17, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Mar 11, 2010 rated it really liked it
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.
Amanda P
This is an amazing story of sorrow, redemption and forgiveness. I am a huge fan of true crime (and fictionalized books loosely based on true crimes). This book just swooped in and quickly became one of my favorites for multiple reasons.
I knew very little about the events that transpired before reading Picking Cotton. I not only learned about the crime/trial, but I learned about their lives before and after it. I really felt like I was a fly on the wall watching the story of their lives. I felt
Sep 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As much as I love true crime and as much as I already knew about this case I would never have thought I could get As much as I did out of this book. Ronald Cotton is such a strong willed human being and I’m so glad I was able to hear his side of the story. Jennifer Thompson is another great person that through everything she went through she still maintained her strength and wanted to help others as much as she could. Their story needs to be read even if you know all about this case already. A w ...more
Jeremy Stock
Aug 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a MUST READ !

Stories such as this should be required reading in school. It's a powerful, true story account of how even the most sincere eye-witness identifications can be utterly and devastatingly wrong.

Please read this book. See a glimpse into some of the issues facing our criminal justice system. A system which is all too human.

I'm grateful to the authors for taking the time to write and share this transformative story.

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Non Fiction Book ...: August 2015 - Picking Cotton 4 9 Aug 04, 2015 06:07PM  
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Best book ever! 2 14 Dec 08, 2011 09:54AM  

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