Getty Images / NBC Universal
Jennifer Thompson and Ronald Cotton have every reason to be enemies.
In 1984, an intruder broke into Thompson’s apartment and raped her. She identified Cotton as the rapist in both a photo array and a live lineup. Although Cotton proclaimed his innocence, he was arrested, tried, and convicted. The prosecution’s case rested mainly on Thompson’s identification, and during the trial she testified that she was “absolutely sure” Cotton was the man who raped her. Cotton was sentenced to life in prison plus 54 years.
But 10-and-a-half years later, things changed drastically. Cotton was exonerated based on DNA evidence that showed that a man named Bobby Poole had raped Jennifer Thompson. In a hearing that occurred after Cotton’s trial, Thompson was shown a picture of Poole. She said “I have never seen him in my life.”
You might expect Thompson would do everything possible to avoid meeting the man she had wrongfully condemned to prison. You might expect Cotton to hate the woman who took away ten years of his life. You would be wrong. Consumed by guilt when she learned her mistaken identification sent an innocent man to jail, Thompson made arrangements to meet Cotton. Ever since, they’ve become…