Ronald Cotton Marks 14 Years with a Bestselling Book


Ronald Cotton Marks 14 Years with a Bestselling Book

Fourteen years ago this week,

Ronald Cotton

walked out of a North Carolina prison a free man for the first time in more than a decade. In two trials in 1985 and 1987, Cotton was convicted of rape and burglary largely based on the victim’s misidentification. In May 1995, DNA testing finally proved Cotton’s innocence.

After his release, Cotton worked hard to rebuild his life. He took on two jobs to get himself back on his feet. He got married and has a daughter, who today is 10 years old. But Cotton’s remarkable post-exoneration success story did not end there.


Two years after his exoneration, Cotton met face to face with the victim in the case, Jennifer Thompson-Cannino, who had misidentified him as her attacker. According to

an MSNBC article

, Thompson-Cannino recalled telling Cotton when they first met that “if she atoned every day for the rest of her life, it would not be enough to make up for the years [he] had lost.” Cotton responded by telling Thompson-Cannino that he had already forgiven her.  In a recent interview on the

Today Show

, Cotton explained his response, saying “I couldn’t carry on serving my time in the prison system holding grudges and thinking about retaliating against a person that made an honest mistake. I had to proceed on in life regardless.”

Since that first meeting, the two have become close friends and today they have joined together to fight against injustice. They give speeches about their experiences, advocate for reform, and have worked to expose the causes of wrongful conviction. They focus, in particular, on pursuing

reforms to eyewitness identification procedures

– urging states to mandate changes that are proven to reduce misidentifications. Their advocacy has contributed to successful reforms across the country, including their home state of

North Carolina


Most recently, Cotton and Thompson-Cannino worked with author Erin Torneo to write "

Picking Cotton

," a best-selling memoir written about their experiences and the need for criminal justice reform. In the book, which was released earlier this year, Cotton and Thompson-Cannino tell  their stories in their own words, discuss the need for improved police procedures, and demonstrate the importance of forgiveness.

Buy your copy of “Picking Cotton” at through this link

and a portion of proceeds will benefit the Innocence Project.

Other Anniversaries This Week:


Dennis Williams

, Illinois (Served 17.5 Years, Exonerated 7/2/96)


Kenneth Adams

, Illinois (Served 17.5 Years, Exonerated 7/2/96)


Willie Rainge

, Illinois (Served 17.5 Years, Exonerated 7/2/96)

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