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Running head: Perceptions; Picking Cotton

Perceptions and Relationships in Picking Cotton


Mackenzie Walls
University of Kentucky

Authors Note
Mackenzie Walls, College of Nursing, University of Kentucky.
Mackenzie Walls is in the pursuit of her Bachelor degree in Nursing at the University of
Kentucky.
This paper is for CIS 110: Comp and Con 1 at the University of Kentucky with Molly
Kuramoto.
Correspondence concerning this paper should be addressed to Mackenzie Walls,
University of Kentucky. Email: mackenzie.walls@uky.edu

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Abstract
The novel Picking Cotton by Jennifer Thompson-Cannino, Ronald Cotton, and
Erin Torneo deals with an injustice and redemption. Perceptions throughout this story can be
recognized by the stages in order to accuse Ronald Cotton, the stereotypes and culture in which
Jennifer Thompson-Cannino and Ronald Cotton were living in, and interpersonal relationships
between Jennifer Thompson-Cannino and the police department. Once the verdict was made the
perception became that Jennifer Thompson-Cannino was a victim to a horrendous crime who
now had to live with the fact she sent a man to jail and the entire town knew. When Jennifer
Thompson-Cannino was raped, she became incredible close with the detectives working her
case. This story of Jennifer Thompson-Cannino and Ronald Cotton is an extreme case of how
perceptions a person can have can affect someone elses life negatively.

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The novel Picking Cotton by Jennifer Thompson-Cannino, Ronald Cotton, and Erin
Torneo deals with an injustice and redemption. Jennifer Thompson-Cannino wrongfully accuses
Ronald Cotton of assault and rape. Throughout the novel, Ronald Cotton tries to clear his name
while he is in prison and Jennifer-Cannino deals with her rape and decision of sending a man to
jail every day for the rest of her life. The novel also goes into depth about the process of finding
Ronald Cotton, picking him out in the line-up, and wrongfully accusing him. Perceptions
throughout this story can be recognized by the stages in order to accuse Ronald Cotton, the
stereotypes and culture in which Jennifer Thompson-Cannino and Ronald Cotton were living in,
and interpersonal relationships between Jennifer Thompson-Cannino and the detectives working
the case at the local police department.
The process of finding a felon and accusing them of a crime is already a tough experience
in its own but, it becomes increasingly more difficult with the type of crime committed and
having to be completely certain in the accusers choice so that the actual felon takes the
punishment for the crime. Jennifer Thompson-Cannino had to do just that. Jennifer CanninoThompson had to sit down and find the man that broke his way into her home and raped her.
Jennifer Thompson-Cannino had to relive that night over and over again to retain any detail that
would help find and commit the man who assaulted and raped her. She had to try to remember
even the smallest of attributes about that night and about her rapist. Since this was such a serious
crime, it was even more pressure on Jennifer-Cannino to make a correct accusation not only for
her but the other woman who as raped that night as well. The other woman who was raped the
same night as Jennifer Thompson-Cannino was more distraught with her assault and rape and

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was less able than Jennifer Thompson-Cannino to make a correct accusation. The first step to
accusing Ronald Cotton was for Jennifer Thompson-Cannino to watch a line-up of men who
were possible suspects of being the man who raped her. Once Jennifer Thompson-Cannino saw
all the possible suspects and heard them repeat what her rapist said to her that night, she was able
to make an accusation. With her accusation made that Ronald Cotton was the man her raped her
that night, it was time for the case to go to court. Court was a tedious process where Jennifer
Thompson-Canninos prosecutors had to go over every single detail of evidence against Ronald
Cotton and even have Jennifer Thompson-Cannino go on the stand herself to validate and
finalize all the evidence. Even though Ronald Cotton was innocent, it was a difficult job for his
defense lawyers to support him. The perception had already been made that Ronald Cotton was
the man who assaulted and raped Jennifer Thompson-Cannino. In court Ronald Cotton was
wrongfully accused of being the man who raped Jennifer Thompson-Cannino. Once the verdict
was made the perception became that Jennifer Thompson-Cannino was a victim to a horrendous
crime who now had to live with the fact she sent a man to jail and the entire town knew. Ronald
Cotton was now seen by the town as a guilty rapist who got what he deserved.
Jennifer Thompson-Cannino and Ronald Cotton are from a small southern town in North
Carolina. This town is where Jennifer Thompson-Cannino was raped and wrongfully accused
Ronald Cotton of being her rapist. Since this crime happened in such a small town, everyone
knew instantly. Everyone began forming their own opinions of what happened that night of the
rape and about Jennifer Thompson-Cannino and Ronald Cotton as people. People began seeing
Jennifer Thompson-Cannino as a tainted victim and Ronald Cotton as a malicious rapist. Even

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Jennifer Thompson-Canninos boyfriend at the time had a difficult time being affiliated with the
woman who was raped by an African American male. Since this crime happened in such a small
town, it was an enormous amount of pressure on Jennifer Thompson-Cannino to make a correct
accusation and get her rapist off the streets and into jail. There was also an enormous amount of
pressure on Ronald Cotton to behave as a gentleman. Even when being accused of something he
didnt do, Ronald Cotton had to behave respectfully and not act out because he was under watch
and any little thing he did was brought to attention. The town and persecutors would use
anything Ronald Cotton did as evidence against him. This small town atmosphere made the case
everyones business and everyone was vocal about their opinions of both Jennifer ThompsonCannino and Ronal Cotton. The only people in total support of Jennifer Thompson-Cannino were
the detectives at the police department.
When Jennifer Thompson-Cannino was raped, she became incredibly close with the
detectives working her case. At first, Jennifer Thompson-Canninos relationship with her
detectives was a strictly detective-victim relationship. As the case continued even after Ronald
Cottons sentencing, Jennifer Thompson-Canninos relationship with the detectives became more
of a friendship. The detectives and Jennifer Thompson-Cannino became closer and closer as they
had to spend more time together and as they got to know each other better on a more personal
level. The detectives saw how much Jennifer Thompson-Cannino was going through and how
hard she was working to get her rapist behind bars in jail. Their relationship went from
acquaintances, to friendship, to intimates. Having such a close relationship made the case more
personal for the detectives and made the detectives more sympathetic and understanding towards
Jennifer Thompson-Cannino. At times the detectives were even more sympathetic and

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understanding towards Jennifer Thompson-Cannino and the case than her own family and
boyfriend. The detectives and Jennifer Thomson-Cannino even kept in touch after the case and
worked together again to meet up with Ronald Cotton after he was finally found innocent.
This story between Jennifer Thompson-Cannino and Ronald Cotton is an extreme case of
how perceptions a person can have can affect someone elses life negatively. Perceptions by
Jennifer Thompson-Cannino, the town, and the detectives all saw Ronald Cotton as a guilty man
who assaulted and raped two innocent women. These perceptions were a major influence in how
people saw and treated Ronald Cotton. As the novel progressed and Ronald Cotton was found
innocent, it was still difficult for some people to remember Ronald Cotton as the man before the
case and to treat him in that way. Jennifer Thompson-Cannino and the detectives helped in
people treating Ronald Cotton as the free, innocent man he was. When people saw how Jennifer
Thompson-Cannino could forgive and even become friends with Ronald Cotton, they were able
to do the same. Jennifer Thompson-Cannino is not able to take back what she did to Ronald
Cotton or give him back those years and memories he missed while being in prison, but, she is
able to help her town and towns everywhere not make this mistake she made.

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References
Boundless. The Perceptual Process. Boundless Management. Boundless, 21 Jul. 2015.
Retrieved 06 Oct. 2015 from https://www.boundless.com/management/textbooks/boundlessmanagement-textbook/organizational-behavior-5/individual-perceptions-and-behavior-41/theperceptual-process-217-3560/

Bodary, D. Glenn, C. Gray L. Sellnow, D. Sprague, J. Stuart, D. Verderber, K. Verderber, R.


Perception of Self and Others. The Speakers Handbook, Communicate, and Harbrace
Essentials.

Thompson-Cannino, J. Cotton, R. Torneo, E. 2009. Picking Cotton. St. Martins Griffin.