Helen O’Neill, What Jennifer Saw, Minneapolis Star Tribune, The Associated Press, Burlington, N.C., March 22, 2009.
A rape victim, Jennifer Thompson positively identified Ronald Cotton as her rapist at trial resulting in a life sentence for him. She was strong, sure, composed, the perfect witness. Cotton had been in trouble with the law, was nervous, mixed up dates, his alibis did not check out, and foam was missing from his shoe, similar to a piece found at the crime scene. However, it was the eyewitness identification which convicted him, not the circumstantial evidence. Again at his second trial, Thompson positively identified Cotten. At this second trial, another victim who had also been brutally raped positively identified Cotton as her rapist. This resulted in a second life sentence. Eleven years later a detective told Thompson that DNA evidence had proved her identification of Cotton was wrong. This new scientific proof had not been available before. Now Thompson educates others on the unreliability of eyewitness testimony and has written a book with Mr. Cotton on the fallibility of eyewitness identification and forgiveness.