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 Cotton was allowed to take a DNA test which cleared him. Under overwhelming evidence, the perpetrator eventually confessed.
Two years later Jennifer met Ronald and forged a friendship. This may all seem like a great plot for a fiction book but this is an amazingly true story.
Jennifer and Ronald come together to tell their sides of the story. Jennifer's account shows how frail eyewitness accounts can be. She was totally convinced she had the right man. The justice system unfortunately does have flaws and Jennifer and Ronald are aiming to fix some of them. Jennifer's account also shows how hard it is to find 'closure'. Even though the trial is done, there are appeals and appeals and it never goes away.
This book is about faith and forgiveness. Ronald had faith he would be found innocent and his forgiveness of Jennifer is uplifting and touching. He does speak about his initial rage but he overcomes this and never loses hope. I was amazed by the forgiveness by Ronald. He is an unbelievable person. Both Ronald and Jennifer speak of being the victims of the perpetrator. Jennifer and Ronald show us all what human grace is all about.
First Line: "Ronald Cotton stands a few rows behind Jennifer Thompson-Cannino, watching as she cranes her head through the crowd, looking for him among the faces of the parents who have come out to watch their children play soccer."
Picking Cotton at Chapters