FSP Assignment 2

FSP Assignment 2 - 1 EJ Phelps FSP 121-14 October 6 2007...

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1 EJ Phelps FSP 121-14 October 6, 2007 Professor Goedecke Writing Assignment #2 Faults, Errors, and Misinformation of a Convicted Innocent Sending a person to jail for a crime that they did not commit is neither a new problem, nor one that is easily fixed. Many factors must go awry for the person wrongly accused to be convicted. In the case of Ronald Cotton, it was not even a matter of being at the wrong place at the wrong time. The only connection between Ronald Cotton and the woman accusing him of rape was that the two were neighbors. Unfortunately for him, that was enough for the police, prosecutor, and Jennifer, his accuser, to convict him of rape. While that may be the long and short of the case , a multitude of different individual and systemic errors truly contributed to his conviction, from mistakes made by the accuser, wrongful judges in character from the jurors, and false certainty provided by police. The first issue confronting Ronald Cotton was the mistaken identification that Jennifer made on more than one occasion . This error can be attributed to two factors; one being Jennifer herself and the other being the police department. Unbeknownst to Jennifer, a subconscious mechanism was beginning to alter her perception of the attacker the more that she tried to identify him. Because Jennifer was white and the man who raped her was black, cross- racial identification was impairing her ability to pick out the distinguishing features of her
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EJ Phelps Writing assignment 2 2 attacker. Instead, she was focusing on features perceived to be shared members of the African American race (Taslitz 124). Jennifer’s mind most likely could not create a solid picture of the attacker. To fill in this information, Jennifer’s mind used stereotypes to create the attacker that she was looking for as opposed to the attacker that actually raped her. While she had not met Ronald Cotton yet, she had established a person whom she was seeking as the attacker. Later, her initial impression would be manipulated by police, however, for Jennifer the early seeds of suspicion would lead to overwhelming certainty as her process moved forward.
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