When Jennifer Thompson woke up to find a stranger in her house and realized that this man was going to rape her, she promised herself that she was going to survive and do everything she could to catch this guy. She memorized his face and all his features before making a run for it. She identified Ronald Cotton as her rapist in both a photo and physical line up. Ronald Cotton was put in jail for his crimes. Except, Ronald Cotton was not the man that committed the crime. While Ronald Cotton was in jail, he learned that a man named Bobby Poole was confessing to the crime in jail, so Cotton tried to get this submitted to a judge to overturn his conviction. Instead, he got another rape charge tacked onto his sentence. Cotton spent 11 years in jail before DNA finally proved his innocence. He was let out of jail and tried to get on with his life. Meanwhile, Jennifer was consumed by guilt.
The story is told from both Jennifer and Ronald's perspective and portrays an extremely wide array of emotions. It also opens your eyes to the fallacies of eye witness testimonies and shows you how biased lineup picks can be. Our memories are not concrete, we can shape them around what we think/want them to be. This is an amazing story and reads very quickly, partially because the writing is so simplistic (I believe this detracts from the book a bit), and partially because it is such a captivating story. Hopefully some of the changes that have been made to how lineups are conducted in North Carolina will become common practice in all states and provinces.
First Line: "I used to walk to campus and back every day from my apartment in Burlington"