13 years of freedom for North Carolina man


After spending over 10 years in a North Carolina prison for a rape he didn’t commit, Ronald Cotton was exonerated on June 30, 1995. Monday marked the 13th anniversary of his exoneration.

Since his exoneration, Cotton has traveled the country talking about his experiences and fighting for criminal justice reform. In his travels, he has had an unlikely companion: Jennifer Thompson-Cannino, the victim who misidentified Cotton as her rapist. Today, Cannino often works alongside Cotton to raise awareness about the flaws of eyewitness identification, which contribute to over 75% of wrongful convictions.

Click here to learn more about eyewitness misidentification


Over the years, the pair has also worked to increase compensation for exonerees in North Carolina, which offered only $500 for every year spent in prison when Cotton was exonerated. Now, North Carolina offers $20,000 a year. But many states—25 in all—have no law requiring exoneree compensation at all.

Click here to learn more about exoneree compensation


Cotton and Cannino are also working on a new project together. The duo (with Erin Torneo) received a Soros Justice Grant to write a book about their experiences: Picking Cotton: A True Story.

Read more about the book here


Other exoneration anniversaries this week:


Kenneth Adams

, Illinois (Served 17.5 years, Exonerated 7/02/96)

Willie Rainge

, Illinois (Served 17.5 years, Exonerated 7/02/1996)

Dennis Williams

, Illinois (Served 17.5 years, Exonerated 7/02/96)


William Gregory

, Kentucky (Served 7 years, Exonerated 7/05/00)

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