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Answering the questions to Picking Cotton!
by Becky (chrisondra)
at April 29th, 2010 (10:43 pm)

current mood: thoughtful

My turn:

1. What did you think of the format where the two switched off writing their own sections and then had the one combining the two? Did you find it effective?

I found it very effective, especially to read it from Jennifer's point of view first and then to rewind and see the same scenario from Ronald's eyes. To then combine it and have them switch off was pretty cool too. It made it so just when you were getting settled into one side of the story, you got yanked to the other side, balancing it out nicely.

2. After reading Jennifer's section of the book, did you find yourself feeling even a little biased against Ronald even if you knew exactly what the book was about and that he was innocent?

No, but then you would have ran me out of the house if I had! In all seriousness, again, no, I didn't. I just felt more sorry for Jennifer than anything that I knew what she was thinking the whole time and that she was going to be hit hard in the future with the fact that she got the wrong man. I felt sorry for Ronald too, of course, but during Jennifer's section, it was easier to feel sorry for her and what she went through.

3. Conversely, after reading Ronald's part of the book, did you feel any resentment or other negative emotion toward Jennifer?

Again, no. In fact, the only part of the book that made me go "Wow" at Jennifer was when she hoped that Ronald would get raped in prison, which came from one of her sections of the book. I wouldn't have expected that, but there it was.

4. Jennifer's family was less than supportive during her ordeal, while Ronald's was supportive and believed in his innocence. What sort of impact, if any, do you think these had on the two over the years before Ronald was found innocent?

I think Jennifer's family lack of support kept her paranoid longer than she might have been otherwise. Also, I think it made her shift a little of the blame to herself, though that at least didn't seem to take too much root in her, which is good. I think it did make it harder for her to get on with her life. She had no one to go to.

Ronald, on the other hand, knew he had people who believed in him. They visited him, and that had to give him amazing support that helped him make it through as well as he did. The cat was pretty damn awesome too.

5. Do you believe that race played a part in the equation at all? Why or why not? And if so, how much so?

Absolutely, especially since Ronald had been, oh no, dating a white woman. As it is, I think it would be harder for Jennifer to pick the right black man anyway, even if her memory had been clearer. It's hard to differentiate, especially when you can't get close, and they couldn't risk that. When you're scared, the people you're scared of tend to look bigger as it is. The cops should have known better with the height discrepency, but again, I think race played a huge part of it. Since the assault had been done by a black man, they needed a black man taken to court really fast. As it was, it was evident that Ronald was already on the bad side of a lot of people due to his girlfriend, so that made it all the easier.

6. What were your feelings about Jennifer after she saw Bobby Poole in the courtroom and yet still insisted that Ronald was her rapist?

I didn't feel any different towards her. Once you set your mind to believing someone's your guy, your mind is going to make it out to be. Like she said, in her dreams, it *was* Ronald. Her dreams weren't trying to tell her it was someone else. She had completely convinced herself that it had been Ronald. For her not to recognize the actual rapist after that, well, I can't blame her too much. As it was, despite all the attentiont she tried to pay to detail, she still couldn't pick the right person out definitively and immediately. She had to look to narrow things down, and not quickly. That alone shed some light on the problems with the methods the detectives and police were going through.

7. Jennifer went to great lengths to memorize what her attacker looked like, and still she chose the wrong man. What does this tell you about eyewitness testimony and its reliability? What impact do you think that investigators had with the identification of Ronald Cotton as the rapist?

Well, this segues nicely from the end of my last answer. Obviously, it poses a difficult problem with eyewitness testimony. When we're trying to help, we want to give the right answer, and our minds will often try to forge that right answer. We'll remember things wrong. I know I've remembered little details incorrectly before that I was sure I was right about. I'm sure everyone has done that. It's the little details that led Jennifer astray. The cops wanting someone to punish, lead her down a path (some unwittingly), and she, wanting to be right and get justice, followed down that path until she was sure it *was* Ronald.

8. There have been about 252 people exonerated by DNA evidence since 1989. 17 of those exonerated have been on death row. How do these facts, along with the reading of this book, change your opinions and beliefs about people in prison, if at all?

Honestly, it doesn't change my opinions and beliefs about them at all, really. I've known for a long time that there are a lot of innocent people in prison, and this is the primary reason I'm against the death penalty. While I believe there are crimes worth dying for, I don't think the death of even one innocent person is worth the death of those who are guilty. I think it also makes it very hard to justify taking away basic rights from people who go to prison, like the right to vote.

9. Ronald Cotton took no time at all to forgive Jennifer when she apologized to him. What do you think that this says about him?

That he's an amazing person? And that he had a lot of time to reflect on everything, which he did. It makes him no less amazing. Jennifer's really lucky, in the end, that, since she picked wrong, she picked someone like Cotton. I also think the support of his family had a great deal to do with it as well.

Awesome read! I picked it up and couldn't put it down, except for work, until I finished it.