Sunday, April 19, 2009

Picking Cotton Authors on Campus

I just read Picking Cotton: Our Memoir of Injustice and Redemption and I'm very eager to hear the authors, Jennifer Thompson-Cannino and Ronald Cotton, when they speak tomorrow afternoon (UW School of Law, Gates Hall room 133, 4 p.m.).

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.

When witnesses are given a choice of, say, six men, they will often pick the one who looks most like the person they saw commit the crime. Then that person's image becomes part of their memory. Because of this case, their town's police department changed its procedures for photo arrays and lineups. Now witnesses are shown pictures or suspects one at a time to reduce that effect.

This should be a great talk.

The library's copy of the book hasn't been processed yet but will be available soon. The University Book Store will also be selling copies at the event.

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