TV2: With liberty and justice for some

Jeannette Reyes

KentWired Video

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Former Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro recently wrote a book on the wrongfully accused.

“If our standard is proof beyond a reasonable doubt. And if the eyewitness is the only evidence of guilt. And if statistically an eyewitness is wrong 25 percent of the time. Then, as a matter of law the eyewitness being the only witness in the case,” Petro said. “The only evidence of guilt, is not proof beyond a reasonable doubt. You need more.”

You may remember Troy Davis, who was accused of killing a police officer in 1989 and sentenced to death. After much doubt and seven of the nine trial witnesses recanting their testimonies, he was executed in September of last year.

Many people find it difficult to question human memory and even more difficult to question a confident witness. But Jennifer Thompson has made it her mission to educate others about how wrong out memories can be.

Thompson was 22 when she was raped by an unmasked African American male in her home.

“He jumped up on the bed and jumped on my chest and straddled me,” Thompson said. “He straddled me and put a knife to my throat, and I screamed. He very quickly put a gloved hand over my mouth and told me to shut up, or he would kill me.”

During the rape, she made sure to remember every detail of her rapist’s face for the day when she would be called upon to identify her rapist.

After confidently picking out Ronal Cotton from a lineup of seven men, they later sentenced him to life. She remembers her reaction to the verdict vividly.

“I hope you die there,” Thompson recalled. “I hope you go in and everybody knows you’re a rapist and kill you.”

Eleven years later, DNA proved it was not Cotton who raped her but rather another man who was in the line up.

“It wasn’t me not being smart,” said Thompson. “It was a series of events that took place to contaminate my memory so much so that the original picture that I had of the man who raped me was way back here and could never be retrieved again.”

Thompson says the American judicial system needs to do better.

“When we have our little children in school, and we tell them to put their hand over their hearts and say the pledge of allegiance, with liberty and justice for all, we better mean it,” she said. “We better back that up. And we are not backing it up. Because the reality is it’s justice for some but not for everybody.”

Contact Jeannette Reyes at [email protected].