Review: Picking Cotton
When Jennifer Thompson was a student at Elon College, she was raped at knifepoint. She kept her cool, though, and did her best to try to remember every detail about her assailant’s appearance so she could identify him later. She thought she did just that when she picked Ronald Cotton out of a police line-up. Based on her testimony and circumstantial evidence, Ronald Cotton was found guilty and sent to prison – maintaining his innocence the whole time.
Ronald Cotton did what he could to get by in prison and asked his lawyers to do what they could as well. After they thought they’d exhausted all avenues, they dropped his case. Several years later, a professor from UNC and several of his students came to Ronald’s defense and got him exonerated through DNA evidence.
Jennifer was overcome with emotion when Ronald was released from prison and didn’t really know how to feel. Would he come after her for retribution or would he stay as far away from her as possible? After hearing an interview with him she decided to ask to meet him and the two forged an unlikely friendship.
Picking Cotton, by Jennifer Thompson-Cannino and Ronald Cotton is a remarkable book. Alternating between Jennifer and Ron’s points of view, it gives a little background of each, then tells of the rape, the trial, and how they each managed to go on with their lives afterward.
Ronald spent eleven years in prison and decided to make the best of it. I am amazed that he was able to come out of prison with no ill feelings toward Jennifer and no bitterness. This man knows the true meaning of forgiveness. Jennifer went on with her life after the trial but Ron’s release rocked her world. Not only was she somewhat fearful, she was full of guilt for what she had done to an innocent man. The friendship these two have is remarkable and I admire the fact that they’ve become advocates for judicial reform and social justice.
I listened to the audio version of Picking Cotton and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Ron and Jennifer’s story is one of those true stories that seems stranger than fiction. I liked the way the story alternated between their points of view – it made the story feel personal. The audio version is narrated by Karen White and Richard Allen. I was taken with Karen’s voice as Jennifer immediately and wondered how she could read the emotional scenes so well since I cried as I listened to them. It took me a little while to warm up to Richard’s voice but, after a while, I thought he was the right choice. The unabridged audio lasts approximately 8 hours.