Thursday, April 2, 2009

First-person Story of Mistaken Eyewitness Identification

The Gates PSL Speaker Series is presenting an event that should be amazing:

Picking Cotton: Our Story of Injustice & Redemption, featuring Speakers, Activists and Authors Jennifer Thompson-Cannino and Ronald Cotton

Jennifer and Ronald have an extraordinary story to tell. It is a story that challenges the way we think of our legal system. It is a story that challenges our ideas about memory and judgment. It is a story that teaches us about human grace and the healing power of forgiveness.

In 1984, Jennifer Thompson-Cannino was raped at knifepoint by a man who broke into her apartment while she was sleeping. She escaped, and in the course of reporting her crime eventually positively identified Ronald Cotton as her rapist in a photo array and subsequent physical lineup. Ronald always insisted he was innocent, but Jennifer’s positive ID was the compelling evidence that put him behind bars. But in 1995, with the help of a UNC law professor, Ronald was allowed a DNA test that proved he was not Jennifer’s rapist. He was released, after serving eleven years in prison for a crime he did not commit.

What makes this story unique is what occurred after Cotton’s release. Two years later, Jennifer and Ronald met face to face — and they became incredible friends. With Jennifer’s help, Ronald received over $100,000 in compensation from the state of North Carolina for his wrongful incarceration. They now travel the country speaking about their experiences, their friendship, the harrowing and often murky waters of the criminal justice system, and working towards reform in the area of mistaken witness identification.

Co-sponsored by the Integrity of Justice Project.

Date: Monday, April 20, 2009
Time: 4:00pm - 5:15pm
Location: W. H. Gates Hall Room 133

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