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Picking Cotton: Our Memoir of Injustice and Redemption

Picking Cotton: Our Memoir of Injustice and Redemption

4.1 191
by Jennifer Thompson-Cannino, Ronald Cotton, Erin Torneo

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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


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 test that proved his innocence. He was released, after serving more than a decade in prison for a crime he never committed. Two years later, Jennifer and Ronald met face to face—and forged an unlikely friendship that changed both of their lives.

In their own words, Jennifer and Ronald unfold the harrowing details of their tragedy and challenge our ideas of memory and judgment while demonstrating the profound nature of human grace and the healing power of forgiveness.

Editorial Reviews

On the 1984 night that changed her life, Jennifer Thompson was a 22-year-old college student when she was awakened from a sleep by a knife-wielding rapist. She escaped from her attacker, and several days later, she picked the culprit from first a mug shot and then a physical lineup. Or so she thought. Ronald Cotton, the man who Jennifer was "absolutely, positively, without-a-doubt certain" was her rapist, served 11 years for the crime before he was exonerated by DNA evidence. Two years after his release, he and Jennifer met and, against every expectation, formed a resilient friendship. Picking Cotton, their joint memoir, speaks not only to their tragic shared experience but also to the issue of mistaken eyewitness testimony, the number one cause of wrongful convictions. Heartbreaking and then inspiring.
Kate Tuttle
Their story, told here in alternating sections, emphasizes that both were victims. Still, as both acknowledge, Thompson-Cannino, traumatized as she was, spent the next decade in freedom, marrying and having kids, while Cotton endured prison. Left mostly unexamined is the role race played in his incarceration, but even the most cynical reader will be impressed with Cotton's resilience and grace.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

In July 1984, Thompson-Cannino, a white college student in Burlington, N.C., was raped by a black intruder. She identified her assailant in a lineup as Cotton; he was sentenced to life plus 50 years. When he secured a new trial in 1987, he found himself charged with a second attack and sentenced to two life sentences plus 54 years. DNA evidence at a new trial, eight years later, exonerated him of both charges. Authors Thompson-Cannino and Cotton offer this riveting account of their separate, yet connected, lives through those years. The first two parts describe their dreadful experiences: for her, in the "[s]aliva swabs, vaginal swabs, pubic hair combings" of the rape kit; for him, being "sprayed like a dog getting defleaed" at the prison. Thompson-Cannino describes the invasive procedures following a rape, unsettling police procedures (the lineup), unfamiliar legal stages (such as a probable cause hearing) and the disturbing trial. Cotton leads readers through the events following a conviction (the several prisons, adjustments to the prison norm, the alternating hope and despair of the judicial stages). Redemption is the subject of the third part, where Thompson-Cannino and Cotton forge a path to genuine friendship in advocating for the wrongfully convicted. Together they have produced a well-modulated and generously balanced memoir-at once a devastating and uplifting crash course in the criminal justice system. (Mar.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal
In 1984, Thompson-Cannino, a 22-year-old white, North Carolina college student, was viciously raped by a black intruder and identified Cotton as her attacker. Her testimony led to his conviction and a sentence of life imprisonment, though DNA evidence exonerated him 11 years later. Unbelievably, the two formed a genuine friendship and now together advocate for judicial reform. Audie Award nominee Richard Allen and Karen White (My Kind of Place) bring this poignant, simply unforgettable, joint first-person account wholly to life. Recommended for all. [See Major Audio Releases, LJ 2/1/09; the St. Martin's hc, a New York Times best seller, was recommended as "an asset to any crime collection," LJ 2/1/09.—Ed.]—Beth Farrell, Portage Cty. Dist. Lib., Garrettsville, OH
Kirkus Reviews
A rape victim and the man she falsely accused-in good faith-collaborate to share an important, affecting story of fatally mistaken identity. Thompson-Cannino was a college student at Elon College in1984, when a knife-wielding man broke into her Burlington, N.C., apartment and raped her. She saw him clearly and escaped the apartment before he could harm her further. After working with a police sketch artist and examining mug shots gathered by police, she identified 22-year-old Cotton, who was convicted by a jury and sentenced to life in prison. He maintained his innocence from the time police approached him, but nobody except his family believed him. Sophisticated DNA testing did not exist in the mid-'80s, and few people inside or outside the criminal-justice system understood the unreliability of eyewitness identification, especially across racial lines. (Thompson-Cannino is Caucasian, Cotton African-American.) Convicted prisoners rarely receive attention when claiming innocence from their cells, and they usually lack the money, the legal assistance and the support network to make their assertions heard. Thompson didn't have much money, but he drew strength from his family and found unusually receptive lawyers willing to represent him pro bono in time-consuming, seemingly hopeless post-conviction proceedings. Journalist Torneo alternates between the first-person narratives of Thompson-Cannino and Cotton. When she heard that a DNA test had set him free after 11 years in prison, she was stunned and guilt-ridden. After seeing a TV documentary about how eyewitnesses make mistakes, in which Cotton said he wondered why he'd never heard from the woman responsible for his wrongful incarceration,she arranged to meet him. Despite the nervousness of her relatives and the anger of his wife, they built up mutual trust, became friends and eventually began traveling together to educate audiences about flaws in the criminal-justice system. Injustice and redemption are overused words, but this heartfelt joint memoir justifies its subtitle. Agent: Christine Earle/ICM
Co-Founder and Co-Director of The Innocence Projec Barry C. Scheck
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.
From the Publisher

“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

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Read an Excerpt

Picking Cotton

Our Memoir of Injustice and Redemption

By Jennifer Thompson-Cannino, Ronald Cotton, Erin Torneo

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2009 Jennifer Thompson-Cannino, Ronald Cotton, and Erin Torneo
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-6215-5


I USED TO WALK three miles to campus and back every day from my apartment in Burlington. There weren't any sidewalks on West Front Street, so during the summer I hugged the edge of the road, trying to stay in the patches of shade when the magnolia trees provided them. I didn't know many people in my neighborhood, although I passed their houses and proud lawns every day. I don't know if I ever even noticed the brick home with white trim just beyond my apartment complex, but on the night that I ran through the damp grass, wearing only a blanket, it was that door I pounded on.

On my way to school, my head was always buried in index cards. I had stacks and stacks of them, careful notes all hole punched and ring bound — a different ring for every class. Just across from campus was a Hardee's, where I'd stop and get a coffee, then sit outside and keep studying. I didn't look over my shoulder or pay too much attention. My focus was on what lay ahead: I was going to graduate in the fall with a perfect 4.0, and my boyfriend, Paul, and I were talking about getting married. He was in his first year of business school at UNC–Chapel Hill. That's all my life was really about: college and my boyfriend. I was twenty-two years old and those were the kind of crystal-clear pictures I carried in my mind.

One night coming home in the dark — it must have been the beginning of July — I noticed a small orange glow as I was walking up to my door. It was just a pinprick of light cutting through the branches. The dry burn caught in the back of my throat. In the tree across from my bedroom window, someone was smoking a cigarette. I couldn't see who it was, but someone was there. I told myself it must be a kid — someone who had climbed up the tree to sneak a smoke. I gave it no further thought.

But that's the picture that flashed in my mind afterward, a snapshot uncovered by my brain as it was reeling for answers to what happened later that month — July 1984.

Burlington, North Carolina, is like most college towns: It swells during the school year with kids from Elon College, and contracts during the summer, when many of them return to their hometowns, to their parents, to the summer jobs they've had since they were in high school. I'd decided to stay that summer because I was taking classes, and because Paul was from Burlington, and would be home for the summer break from his classes in Chapel Hill. His parents ran a barbecue place in downtown, or what was left of it. Already the little mom-and-pop stores were emptying out or moving closer to the newly built mall near Huffman Mill Road, right off of I-40. But people still came to J.J.'s BBQ no matter what. They came for the vinegared pork and sweet tea that were as much a part of the Burlington summer as the humidity.

Most days I taught aerobics at Spa Lady, and on Saturdays, when I finished teaching, I would stay to lift some weights and put in a few hours at the sales desk. That Saturday was no different. When I got off, Paul and I spent the afternoon together, browsing at a shopping mall and eating lunch nearby until the heat finally got to us. We ended up back at my apartment, napping in the comfort of the air-conditioning. In the early evening, it cooled off enough for us to play tennis at the Alamance County Country Club, where he and his family were members. We were famished when we finished our showers, so we headed over to China Inn Restaurant — a favorite of ours. It was one of those all-you-can-eat deals, and I loaded up on fried rice, spring rolls, and refill after refill of sweet iced tea. I'm sure all the MSG had something to do with it — by the time we got to his friend's party, a fierce headache was blooming behind my eyes. We didn't stay very long.

Back at my apartment we turned up the A/C unit in the den full blast. Paul came into my room, carrying a glass of water and some aspirin. I fell asleep to his rubbing my back. The police report would later indicate that he slipped out around 11:00 P.M., taking care not to wake me.

Around 3:00 A.M., something pulled me from sleep, the sound of feet shuffling. At the twilight edge of consciousness, I searched the dim borders between sleep and wakefulness. Was it a noise from my dream? A nightmare? Or something outside my head? All I heard was the thrum and rattle of the air conditioner against the metal frame of the window. My weighted eyelids closed and sank me right back into sleep.

Something grazed my arm. I opened my eyes and felt my heart hammering through my chest. Everything was still and quiet, save for the percussion of blood in my ears, the rush of my breath. My body was terrified although my mind hadn't caught up yet. I struggled to focus my eyes in the fuzzy dark of my room. Instinctively, I pulled the sheets up around my neck. I began to make out the contours of my white dresser, my Smurfette doll, the pale blue and peach knickknacks my mom and I had cheerily decorated the apartment with when I'd moved in the previous fall. By the side of my bed, as I made out an unfamiliar roundness, a stab of pure panic hit my gut. It was the top of someone's head. Somebody was crouching by my right side.

"Who is that? Who's there?" I said, allowing myself to think it must be Paul, or someone playing a stupid joke.

A man sprang up and was on me in seconds. I heard myself scream. Something cold, flat, and metallic pressed into my neck. My mind snapped awake.

"Shut up or I'll cut you!" he hissed, clamping a gloved hand down over my mouth. His breath was inches from my own, and it reeked like an old ashtray someone had spilled beer all over.

Can't breathe, I tried to say, my words muffled by the rough material of his glove. He moved his hand away from my mouth and used it to pin my arms back over my head. "Scream and I'll kill you," he said, pushing the point of the blade harder into my neck with his other hand. My first thought was that he was robbing me and that, when I woke up, I'd startled him. I told him he didn't have to hurt me. I would give him my credit cards, my car keys. I would not call the police.

"My wallet is in the den," I offered, my voice strangled and small from the lack of air in my constricted chest. "Take all my money." I squirmed under him but he was too heavy, the lamp on my night table too far out of my reach. Without anything to use as a weapon, I had little to help me fight back. I was certain that even if I freed my hands, the best I could do was slap him before he stabbed me. I couldn't kick him because he was sitting on my legs. At five foot two, I knew I wouldn't win a physical struggle.

There in my memory, at the knife-edge of fear, time distorted: Some moments hurtled by; others seeped by slowly, as if they were becoming one with everything I was ever going to be. In this particular moment, he sneered at me.

"I got your ten dollars," he said, "but I don't want your fucking money." He reached down, yanked the sheet away from me, and pulled off my purple underwear.

The definitiveness of that knowledge — that I was going to be raped — settled on me like his weight, crushing me. Was this how I was going to die? Was this the last thing I would see? My head ran its own track of protest while my body lay there, unable to move. I don't want to die! I want to live! I want to see my mom and dad again! Paul!

"Just relax. It's been a long time for you, hasn't it, baby?" He put his head down between my legs. The intimacy of this gesture revolted me. My body went rigid, an unconscious resistance all the way down to the muscle: Don't touch me. The Chinese food I'd eaten with Paul churned in my stomach. Was it only a few hours ago that we'd sat at China Inn? My disbelief was a kind of vertigo, and I clutched dumbly for anything to prove that this wasn't really happening. But those hours were already part of something else that seemed to drift further and further out of reach: before — a perpetual yesterday before this night ripped a hole in my life that I tumbled into, bottomless and dark. I swallowed back my nausea, grateful that all I had drunk at dinner was iced tea. It seemed vital that my mind was clear because I was imploring it to figure out what to do. Think. Think! My mind wanted to leave, to dull the sensate horror of his hands and mouth on me, but I knew I must stay present if I was going to have any chance of staying alive.

"Your man's overseas in Germany, ain't he?" He was wrong. It was my brother Joe who was backpacking over there, but I didn't bother to correct him. He took my stunned silence for what it was, interpreted it. "I know all about you, Jennifer. You from Winston-Salem. They burned witches there, ain't that right?" he said. "Yeah, you a witch. We gonna have a good time tonight."

Again I didn't correct him, but I registered that he wasn't as smart as he thought. In school, we had studied the Salem witch trials in Massachusetts, and I never forgot Giles Corey, the only man in American history ever pressed to death. To force him to talk, the court had placed a board upon his chest and piled on stone after stone. His last words were, "More weight," before his lungs collapsed and his rib cage snapped all around him.

My bones didn't give way. I was alive and breathing, alert to the sounds of his unzipping and kicking off his shoes and my silent dread of anticipating what was next. I smelled the scent of cigarette smoke all over him and then he was inside me, his face just above mine. He told me he knew I wore glasses, so he thought I couldn't see him. He was wrong again. My glasses were for distance; everything right in front of me, I could see. Light from the parking lot lamppost filtered through the blinds — it wasn't a lot but it was enough. In blinks, I willed myself to note the details. I studied his face for features to identify. The hairline, his awful mouth. Did he have scars? Tattoos? He had close-cropped hair. Although I didn't want to look at him, I had to. How much could I bear?

I tried to look in his eyes. They were distinctly almond shaped, small, and set deep into his face. I searched for something human to connect to, some kind of appeal I could make through eye contact. But he kept shifting his dark gaze from my eyes. He had high, broad cheekbones, and his mouth was not overly large. A faint shadow of hair framed his upper lip; it looked more like dirt than a mustache.

He kept talking to me, telling me I probably never had a man like him. It was sick what he did, as if we were lovers meeting surreptitiously in the middle of the night, as if this was some kind of fantasy. I was never so enraged and frightened at the same time. My hands balled up into fists — I couldn't stop the fight in them, useless as they were under him. I thought if I could just keep him talking, if I could win his trust, maybe I could get him to put his weapon down. Maybe I could figure out a way to run. I was trying to learn anything about where he lived, or went to school, how old he was, any clue to who this monster in the dark was. The only way I could fight him was to outsmart him.

"I'm afraid of knives," I told him. "I can't relax until you put it down. Can you put it outside? On my car?" I lied. But it was all a twisted lie anyway: his kissing me, talking to me. Like it was a game we were playing together.

I could sense his giving in. He stopped and looked at me. "You ain't gonna call the police?" Here it was: my will staking a claim, this first tiny victory giving way to a hope that maybe I would survive the night.

"No. Just drop it outside on my car. Please, I can't relax." I used his words. He didn't get angrier. If he did this, I thought, I could shut the door behind him fast. It'll give me enough time to call 911. I had no way of knowing that the phone lines had already been cut.

He began to get off me. He reached for his shoes on the floor, the ones he'd removed as he got on me, punctuating the moment with a thud. They were black canvas shoes. He moved slowly, testing me, unsure. I didn't feel powerful, but we were at least negotiating now. His uncertainty about what I was going to do reminded me that he hadn't taken everything from me.

"I have to pee," I announced. I wasn't asking for his permission. I headed out to the hallway, toward the bathroom. "First, I have to watch you go outside so I know you really went. While you're out there, I'll go to the bathroom." I grabbed the soft stadium blanket and wrapped it around me — Hennie, our housekeeper, my second mother, gave this to me — the red, yellow, and blue plaid that I was hoping, wishing, and praying would keep him from touching me again. I trembled with fear and he accepted it was because I was cold. But the blanket was a deliberate choice. I wasn't wearing any clothes, but that wasn't going to stop me from running if I got a chance. Once in the bathroom, I turned on the light, getting another glimpse of his face.

"Turn it off!" he yelled, retreating like a wounded animal into the shadows. I closed the door and ran the water. The bathroom window was too small for me to climb out; if he came after me in here, I'd be trapped. I rushed out into the hallway.

There was a night-light in the den, breaking up the inky corners of the hallway. My eyes continued to adjust to the dark, giving me more detail on him. Standing next to him for a few minutes, I tried to record information about how tall he was, if he walked pigeon toed or duck footed. Based on my height, I figured he must be about six feet tall. As he inched his way toward the front door, he didn't take his eyes off me. "You gonna let me back in, right?"

I reassured him, did my best to sound natural. But I frantically wondered if I could be fast enough to get to the front door before he came back in. It was a chance I'd have to take. I heard the knife hit the table on the porch, his frame still in the doorway. He never even stepped outside; in an instant, he shut and locked the front door. I remained in the hallway, moving toward the den — anything to keep from going back into the bedroom with him. I needed a new plan.

"Turn on the stereo," he commanded. I walked into the living room, and I saw my postcards and pictures scattered all over the coffee table. I hit the power button on the radio, the DJ's voice on KISS coming through the speakers. I needed to get to the back door. Maybe it was open.

"I'm thirsty. I'm gonna get a drink. You want something?" Another stalling tactic I hoped would buy me some time.

He fiddled with the dial, and the blue LCD light illuminated his profile as he trolled for a station. He didn't have a wide nose. "Yeah, fix me something with Seagram's and let's make it a party." Then he held up something.

"Can I have this?" he said. It was a picture of me, standing in a bathing suit at Apex Lake. Why he asked me this still baffles me, since permission was so beside the point. I nodded and he put it in his back pocket.

I headed into the kitchen. If I survived, I told myself, I would tell the police he was a light-skinned black man, wearing dark khakis, a blue shirt with white stripes on the sleeve, and canvas boat shoes. He wore white knit gloves on his hands. I still had the fibrous taste of them in my mouth.

I flipped on the light switch, because I knew it would protect me. It was a small buffer zone: he wouldn't come too close to me with the light on. On the table I saw a pack of Vantage cigarettes from my purse, empty Coors cans, my wallet with my license out. How long was he here while I slept?

Maybe only fifteen feet were between us, but he was behind a corner, just out of sight. I turned on the faucet. The water hitting the basin made a loud, tinny sound. I opened the cupboards, clanked glasses together, threw ice cubes in the sink. I zeroed in on the door in my kitchen. His way in was my only way out. I heard his voice coming toward the kitchen. "Is that door locked?" he yelled. Run!


Excerpted from Picking Cotton by Jennifer Thompson-Cannino, Ronald Cotton, Erin Torneo. Copyright © 2009 Jennifer Thompson-Cannino, Ronald Cotton, and Erin Torneo. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.


Meet 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.

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Picking Cotton 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 191 reviews.
Lojie More than 1 year ago
I purchased this book because I saw Jennifer Thompson-Cannino and Ronald Cotton interviewed about how their lives became intertwined forever. Any woman who ever thought about how she would deal with being raped likely believes she would remember that man's face forever. Because of many factors, Jennifer believed she had identified the right man only to find after two trials and eleven years passed that she was wrong. What was so amazing about this story is that Ronald Cotton was able to accept Jennifer's apology and that she was brave enough to offer it. I can't imagine the kind of heart it would take to forgive someone for taking eleven years of your life. Both Jennifer and Ronald were the victims of the same man....the one who raped Jennifer and the one who allowed Ronald to spend eleven years in prison for a crime he did not commit. He was able to blame the real perpetrator and not Jennifer for his incarceration. It's just an amazing and uplifting story. If you are a believer in capital punishment this is a story you need to read. We certainly are finding, with the advances in DNA testing, that there are innocent people....especially black men, who are locked up or executed for crimes they did not commit. My heart goes out to both of these victims. Jennifer and Ronald will never be the same, but they have certainly shown how forgiveness can change lives.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I found this story so inspiring at a time that we are all struggling for a reason that our world is in such disarray. It shows how very sensitive a rape can be and what can be done to overcome a judgement gone wrong. Truly goes deep into one's thoughts and emotions.
ChristmasCarol09 More than 1 year ago
Feel the emotions of both sides of the story. Feel the consequences of how what you say , can affect others. Learn how forgiveness can improve your life and the lives of those around you. A sad and heartwarming story full of love, in one. Inspiring!
Jen_NY10021 More than 1 year ago
No need to say much about Picking Cotton except that I think everyone ought to read it. Powerful message of forgiveness.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I actually had the chance to hear Jennifer Thompson-Cannino speak about her story and it was the most powerful, amazing, wonderful, heartbreaking story that i have ever heard. I was truly touched by the forgiveness of Ronald for Jennifer. Their friendship is one for the ages. I applaude both Ronald and Jennifer for publishing their story, it is truly amazing.
bookslug More than 1 year ago
Picking Cotton...it is a great story of forgiveness and not letting your circumstances be your fall. We all have something to learn from Ronald Cotton and his story of grace of mercy. How in the most horrible of situations he never gave up hope that the LORD would see him through, and that he was innocent. Eleven years of his life was taking from him, but after it was all over, he looked to God for His purpose in it all. And teaches each reader how to forgive the way our LORD so gracefully did for us! As a woman, I will not lie, at parts it was very difficult to read, through are some disturbing parts, but still a good read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is a must read. It's a compelling true story, beautifully written.
Brannflakes More than 1 year ago
To preface my review - I had just started working at Burlington Times-News the summer Ronald Cotton was finally set free and was in the middle of the unfolding drama. I grew up 15 miles from the Brookwood Condos but was a child at the time of the rape and trials. 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 really close to home. And doubtless, that colors my perception of this book. I did really enjoy the back and forth his and her viewpoints. And their voices do come through loud and clear - Jennifer is a young and innocent girl forced to deal with some very harsh realities and how that changed her. Ronald is a good soul who suffers horrible injustice but his soul isn't changed. Their descriptions of the places and people are spot-on with my viewpoints, and I think that they do a very eloquent job of bringing the reader into that place at that time. While the book is about the harsh realities of racism, revenge and remorse - it also brings with it a good dose of hope that while wrongs may be done in the past we can rise above them and find an inner peace and forgiveness.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a wonderfully written, heart warming story of courage and forgiveness. To read what both people in the book went through but still, some how, were able to come out even stronger is amazing. I can only hope that I could show such warmth and forgiveness in such a horrible situation. I thank them both for sharing their story. It reminds me to enjoy every day and just how wonderful people can be!!!!!
trusunshine More than 1 year ago
This is by far one of the best books that I have ever read. The story is simply amazing and it touches the heart. It's a journey that will have you reading until the book is through, not want to put it down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"Picking Cotton" is an absorbing story of a man that is wrongly convicted, mostly by eyewitness account, of the rape of a young woman. Write in first person back and forth between the victim and the "suspect," it gives an interesting firsthand account of how each was dealing with the situation as it unfolded. I enjoyed reading the women's point of view and how she had to learn to forgive. I did not, however, think the book was well written. There were some awkward points where things were left unexplained and something that was seemingly unimportant to the story was talked about. I thought the editing could have been better and that's why I gave the book a 3 star rating. I've read a lot of Innocence Project books but this one you actually get to hear the accounts from each person. I'm glad that, at least, this story had a happy ending.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A great book that looks deeper into a system of justice that continues to support the racial divide in this country. Conversely an excellent portrayal of the the heart of a man who not only restrained himself from becoming a revenge seeking cold blooded killer but displayed a true manifestation of FAITH and Peace within.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
In these times of protest this book is the answer to understanding in detail the underlying problems with our justice system and why so many are frustrated. It is a true story where compassion for another race has to be learned the hard way. It opens ones eyes to problems in society, and in particular the justice system and why it just does not work. Since anyone of us could be called to jury duty, this is the book to read so that you do not send an innocent person to prison. It is a quick read and does not get overly graphic so your senses will not be bombarded in too negative of a way. This book needs to be read by every adult in America.
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Make this a NOOK FIND o fthe week!!!
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