I Sent The Wrong Man To Jail

by Jennifer Thompson-Cannino
March of 1995 began like any other month for me. The days were filled with chasing soon to be five year-old triplets, washing hundreds of pounds of laundry, kissing skinned knees and picking up toys, until the phone rang. Captain Mike Gauldin, the detective who worked my case after a man broke into my apartment when I was a twenty-two year-old college student and raped me at knifepoint in Burlington, N.C. wanted to come see me with Rob Johnson, then the assistant D.A. of Alamance County.
They arrived before lunch and we sat on the deck enjoying the spring sunshine. We talked about the weather, the kids, current events, and then quickly the topic changed. Ronald Cotton, the man sent away for life for attacking me, wanted a DNA test. They needed new blood drawn because my sample from the eleven year-old rape kit had deteriorated.
I had already sat through two trials and I was furious, but I didn’t hesitate. “Let’s go to the lab right now,” I responded. Within hours Mike Gauldin and Rob Johnson were headed to the SBI labs with my vial of blood. I knew the tests would show what I had known all along: that Ronald Cotton was a monster. It was Ronald Cotton who threatened to kill me, who had chased me through the rain that night while I fled for my life. And it was Ronald Cotton who I saw every night in my nightmares, who I prayed God would have killed, and who I hated each and every day of the last eleven years.

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