Courageous Truth

First Annual Courageous Truth Award

In December 2010, the Innocence Matters Board unanimously voted to honor those who equate justice with truth, not winning. 

Each spring, Innocence Matters intends to select an extraordinary individual who has courageously followed the truth wherever it led him or her, no matter how painful or inconvenient it might have been.  This year, we honored . . .

Jennifer Thompson
Co-author of The New York Times bestseller Picking Cotton

As a young college student, Jennifer Thompson was brutally raped.  During the thirty-minute ordeal, Jennifer set her mind on two things: to survive and to make sure that the monster who did this was caught and prosecuted.  She did both, or so she thought.  Within days of being raped, Jennifer identified Ron Cotton as her rapist.  She was 100% certain; but as she would learn 11 years and two trials later, she was 100% wrong.  

No one would have blamed Jennifer if she refused to face the truth of her mistake, even in the face of DNA proof that she was wrong.  After all, Jennifer was raped and she did the best she could under the circumstances.  She was certainly not to blame for the mistake. 

Instead, Jennifer did what most of us wish we had the courage to do.  She faced the truth, and she did so with truly inspiring elegance and grace.  Jennifer not only came to terms with the truth, she became its champion and now spends her days trying to improve the accuracy of the criminal justice system.   She is a truly remarkable and inspiring woman of courage and integrity, and for that, we honor her. 

ON BEHALF OF THE 100+ LAWYERS, LAW STUDENTS AND MEMBERS OF THE GENERAL PUBLIC WHO ATTENDED, THANK YOU, JENNIFER, FOR YOUR SHARING YOUR STORY WITH US! 

THANKS TO ALL WHO CELEBRATED WITH US!

Our first annual Courageous Truth Award was a tremendous success, with over 100 people in attendance.  Not surprisingly, Jennifer captivated the audience with a compelling account of her determination to honor the truth.  We all fought to hold back tears  as she told of the horror of being raped at knife point, not knowing if she would survive.  We sat in awe of her strength and determination to escape and, then, to find justice.  We understood the tremendous contempt and disgust that Jennifer felt toward Ron Cotton, the man whom she believe committed this a vile crime against her.  Although most of us already knew "the twist" in the story, we were nevertheless amazed and rivetted as Jennifer shared her reaction when she first learned of her mistake.  The man she sent to prison for 11 years was NOT her rapist!  She was wrong; he was innocent!  The rest of the story is perhaps one of the most uplifting and inspiring examples of humanity at its finest.  Jennifer Thompson and Ron Cotton teach us what it means to live a life filled with grace, compassion and love.      
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SECOND ANNUAL COURAGEOUS TRUTH AWARD

Nominations for our next Courageous Truth Award will open in December 2011.  Join our mailing list to receive notification.
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Basic Criteria for Nominees:

 ~ it would have been far easier to avoid the truth
 ~ they chose to honor the truth anyway