Picking Cotton

1671 Words Dec 12th, 2012 7 Pages
Picking Cotton
In the past decade, eyewitness testimonies have cast a shadow on what is wrong with the justice system in today’s society. Before we had the advanced technology, we have today, eyewitness testimonies were solid cold-hard facts when it came to proving the defendant was guilty. However, time has changed and eyewitness testimonies have proven to be the leading causes of wrongful convictions due to misidentification. The Thompson and Cotton case is a perfect example of how eyewitness testimonies can put an innocent man behind bars.
Jennifer Thompson was your average young independent adult trying to earn a degree at Elon College in Burlington, North Carolina. She had a boyfriend, Paul, who commuted from Burlington to Chapel
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After twenty minutes, Jennifer narrowed down the men to two possible suspects. There were certain characteristics of both men that matched the sketch and what Jennifer could remember several days ago when the incident occurred. Jennifer took a leap of faith and chose man number five, which was in fact Ronald Cotton. The authorities confirmed Cotton was who they also believed was the intruder that night. After that day at the station, Jennifer was convinced she had made the proper choice.
When it comes to critiquing how the identification information was obtained, several things are considered unreliable. The first mistake of the use of eyewitness testimonies in the Thompson & Cotton case was Jennifer was in a state of shock when identifying her assailant. Jennifer was in a deep slumber as a stranger at knifepoint awakened her causing adrenaline rush and high stress as she was fearing for her life. “My body was terrified although my mind hadn’t caught up yet” (Cannino et al. 12). This type of state of mind causes the brain to cloud its judgment when high stress occurs during the process of identifying a criminal. Although, Jennifer was able to study her attacker to the best ability possible, stress can alter the memory process clouding exact description especially held at knifepoint.
The second mistake of the use of eyewitness testimonies in the Thompson & Cotton case was the focus Jennifer had on the weapon during

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