“Picking Cotton” co-author, judicial reform activist to deliver Kenelm Lecture 10/13

October 8, 2015 | Leave a Comment

“Picking Cotton” co-author, judicial reform activist to deliver Kenelm Lecture 10/13

BUIES CREEK -- Judicial reform activist and “Picking Cotton” co-author Jennifer Thompson will deliver the History, Criminal Justice, and Political Science Department’s 2015 Kenelm Lecture at the Weymouth Center in Southern Pines on Tuesday, Oct. 13, at 7:30 p.m.

Thompson was raped when she was a 22-year-old college student. Her testimony about the rape helped convict Ronald Cotton, who was sentenced to life in prison. Cotton was eventually freed due to his persistence in maintaining his innocence and to newly developed DNA tests that led to the true perpetrator.

Together Thompson and Cotton wrote the joint memoir “Picking Cotton,” a New York Times bestseller that recounts their journeys, the tragedy that brought them together, and their mutual conviction that such errors must be recognized, that concrete reforms can lessen the probability of such mistakes, and that apology and forgiveness are important elements of happiness and growth.

They have also worked together to successfully lobby state legislators to change compensation laws for the wrongly convicted, to abolish the death penalty, and to revise police eyewitness line-up procedures, among other causes. They also speak before a variety of audiences about race, class, judicial reform, human error, and forgiveness.

In 2013 Thompson was appointed to a three-year term as an alternate member of the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission, the only judicial body in the U.S. with the power to free inmates from prison on the basis of actual innocence.

She also was a member of the North Carolina Actual Innocence Commission, worked with the North Carolina legislature to pass the Racial Justice Act, and has worked with the legislatures of New Jersey, Ohio, Connecticut and Montana as they have considered judicial reforms.

Thompson has appeared on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” “60 Minutes,” “The Today Show,” “Good Morning America,” “20/20,” “The View,” NPR’s “The Diane Rehm Show,” PBS’s “Frontline,” and A&E’s “American Justice.” She has been featured in the documentary “After Innocence,” which won a Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, and in People, Redbook, Newsweek, and other magazines and publications.

Her op-eds have been published in The New York Times, Durham Herald-Sun, and Tallahassee Democrat. She has also written for NPR’s “This I Believe,” Albany Law Journal, and other outlets.

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