On Tuesday, innocence advocates Ronald Cotton and Jennifer Thompson were honored at the annual National Crime Victims’ Service Awards Ceremony as part of the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. Cotton and Thompson were awarded the 2015 Special Courage Award in recognition of the work they’ve done to draw attention to wrongful convictions and to call on lawmakers to adopt better police lineup practices and compensation laws for exonerees. The honor is given to “a crime victim or survivor who has exhibited exceptional perseverance or determination in dealing with his or her own victimization. It may also acknowledge an individual who has acted bravely either to aid a victim or to prevent victimization,” according to the
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Thompson and Cotton’s advocacy began after Cotton was freed from prison in 1995 based on DNA testing which showed that he’d been wrongfully convicted of rape and burglary. Cotton had served 10 years in prison for a crime that he did not commit because Thompson, who had been raped in 1984 in her home, misidentified Cotton as her attacker in a police lineup. Following Cotton’s release, Thompson reached out to Cotton to say that she was sorry. The two developed a meaningful friendship and have since traveled the country telling others about their story. In 2010 they published a book entitled
about their shared and individual experiences as related to the criminal case. A movie about their case is currently in production. Thompson and Cotton are the first Special Courage Award recipients from a wrongful conviction case.
To further the work that Thompson’s done to advance criminal justice reform, Thompson launched her own organization this week, Healing Justice. The group will “promote restorative justice principles in wrongful conviction cases, assist with the provision of services to those harmed and create opportunities to unify the voices of the diverse individuals affected by wrongful convictions – from the innocent to crime victims to police and prosecutors to jurors,” according to the
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