It will be an evening of redemption and forgiveness. Picking Cotton will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 7, in the Prairie Room in the Bone Student Center, with a book signing at Barnes and Noble bookstore at the Bone.
In 1984, Jennifer Thompson was a 22-year-old college student with a 4.0 GPA and lofty goals for her future. 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, Jennifer Thompson’s testimony and memory led to a life sentence for Ronald Cotton.
Years later, Thompson 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, both lives changed, 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.
Devastated that her actions led to the imprisonment of an innocent man, Thompson reached out to Cotton to apologize, and in an act of true generosity, he forgave her. Their unlikely friendship and bond became the basis for the New York Times best-selling book, Picking Cotton.
Today, Thompson and Cotton travel the country, speaking out in favor of DNA testing and working to protect the wrongfully convicted by sharing their personal stories of hope and redemption.
The talk is sponsored by the College of Applied Science and Technology, the Harold K. Sage Fund and the Illinois State University Foundation.