UW News

April 16, 2009

Danger of eyewitness identification is subject of talk

In 1984, Jennifer Thompson-Cannino testified that Ronald Cotton was the man who raped her. Eleven years later, DNA evidence cleared him of the crime. The UW School of Law presents Picking Cotton: Our Story of Injustice and Redemption, featuring Thompson-Cannino and Cotton discussing their experience, at 4 p.m., Monday, April 20, in 138 William H. Gates Hall.

In 1984, Thompson-Cannino was raped at knifepoint in her home. She escaped from her attacker, and in the course of reporting her crime eventually identified Cotton as her rapist in both a photo and physical lineup. Cotton insisted he was innocent, but Thompson-Cannino’s positive ID was the evidence that kept him behind bars.

In 1995, with the help of a University of North Carolina law professor, Cotton was allowed to submit DNA evidence that proved he was not the rapist. Cotton was released, after serving 11 years in prison. Two years later, Thompson-Cannino and Cotton met face to face and became friends. With her help, Cotton received more than $100,000 in compensation from the state of North Carolina for his wrongful incarceration. Together, they wrote a memoir of their experience, Picking Cotton, and their story has been featured on Frontline, NPR’s This I Believe, and 60 Minutes.

The event is sponsored by the law school’s William H. Gates Public Service Law Program and the Integrity of Justice Project.