Application: system variables in the ronald cotton case

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Case Study: Eyewitness Identification

Jennifer Thompson, a white female college student living in southeastern United States was sexually assaulted at knifepoint in her home in the middle of the night. During the attack, the lights remained off. Despite the darkness, Jennifer claimed to have studied the attacker’s face during the assault. Consequently, she felt she was able to identify her assailant to authorities.

Shortly after the attack, Jennifer contacted police. Within hours, she helped law enforcement officials create a composite sketch of her attacker. Within a week, after examining mug shots, she identified Ronald Cotton, an African-American male, as the rapist. About two weeks later, the police arrested Mr. Cotton. Two weeks later, at the police station, she identified Ronald Cotton in a live simultaneous lineup. She told detectives she was 100% certain he was the assailant. During the trial, she clearly demonstrated her confidence that it was Ronald Cotton, the defendant, who had sexually assaulted her.


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