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Jennifer Thompson  

Co-Author of the New York Times Best-Seller "Picking Cotton" and Prominent Activist

In 1984, Jennifer Thompson was a 22-year-old college student with a 4.0 GPA and lofty future goals. Her path was dramatically altered however, when a man broke into her apartment, put a knife to her throat, and raped her.

In that moment, her determination took an entirely different direction, as she focused all attention on memorizing the man's features. Searching for scars, tattoos, and any unique features that could help her identify him, she was certain that she could put him in prison for life. After a composite sketch, line-up identification, and trial, her testimony and memory led to a life sentence for Ronald Cotton.

Years later, she was asked to provide a DNA sample for further analysis of the case. She agreed to the request, positive that her identification of Cotton would be held up by science. In an instant, her life changed yet again, when it was revealed that Ronald Cotton was not her rapist, and after spending 11 years in prison as an innocent man, he was released.

In Picking Cotton, their New York Times best-selling and Soros Justice Media Fellowship award-winning book, which is being made into a movie, Thompson and Cotton reveal their unlikely story of friendship and forgiveness. Devastated by her mistake, Thompson became an activist, speaking out and working to protect the wrongfully convicted. A member of the Actual Innocence Commission, the advisory committee for Active Voices, the Constitution Project, and Mothers for Justice, she shares her powerful story of truth, justice, and redemption.


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