This is truly an amazing story:
For 11 years, a North Carolina woman slept comfortably, secure in the knowledge that she had put the man who raped her in prison for life. And for 11 years, that man endured the endless days of confinement praying that someday, somehow, his innocence would be proved.
On Tuesday, Jennifer Thompson-Cannino and the man she mistakenly put in prison, Ronald Cotton, shared a couch on the TODAY show as they told co-host Meredith Vieira a tale about pain and redemption — and the tricks that memory can play on people with the best intentions.
“This can happen to anyone. And hopefully it does not happen to them,” Cotton told Vieira.
Today he and Thompson-Cannino are best friends. In fact, they’ve written a book together: “Picking Cotton: A Memoir of Injustice and Redemption.” They sometimes travel together too, giving talks about the ways memory can deceive us, and they are working to change the way police conduct photo lineups.
They are also a testament to the power of the human spirit. When DNA evidence ultimately proved that another man committed the rape and Cotton was freed, Thompson-Cannino was consumed by guilt and shame. She was also terrified that the man from whom she felt she had stolen 11 years would attempt to exact vengeance on her and her triplet children.
But Cotton had long since forgiven her. “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,” he told Vieira.
Not me. Ronald Cotton has every reason to be angry. 11 years of his life was stolen for him. 11 years that he'll never get back. Not holding a grudge and trying to move on with your life is one thing, but forgiving and becoming "best friends" with a woman who falsely accused you of rape is well....just powerful. Robert Cotton is a better man than me, because I just couldn't do it.