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Activist and author Jennifer Thompson-Cannino to speak at Jewell
Contact: Rob Eisele816-415-7574
February 10, 2012

Activist and New York Times best-selling author Jennifer Thompson-Cannino will deliver the Peggy Kern Lecture on Women and Society at 7:30 p.m. March 27 in John Gano Memorial Chapel on the William Jewell College campus in Liberty, Mo. The public is invited to attend the free event, which is part of the College’s “Perspectives on the Common Good” lecture series; tickets or reservations are not required.

Thompson-Cannino is the co-author (with Ronald Cotton and Erin Torneo) of Picking Cotton, a New York Times best-seller and winner of the Soros Justice Media Fellowship award. The book recounts the unlikely story of friendship and forgiveness between Thompson-Cannino and Ronald Cotton, the man she wrongfully accused of rape. In 1984, Thompson-Cannino was a 22-year-old college student when a man broke into her apartment, put a knife to her throat and raped her. On the basis of a composite sketch, line-up identification and Thompson-Cannino’s testimony at trial, Cotton was convicted of the crime. Years later, Thompson-Cannino was asked to provide a DNA sample for further analysis of the case. She agreed to the request, which revealed that Cotton was not her rapist. After spending 11 years in prison, he was released.

Picking Cotton, which is under development for a possible film adaptation, tells the unlikely story of friendship and forgiveness between the rape victim and her wrongfully accused and convicted attacker. Devastated by her mistake, Thompson-Cannino became an activist, speaking out and working to protect the wrongfully convicted. A member of the North Carolina Actual Innocence Commission, the advisory committee for Active Voices, the Constitution Project and Mothers for Justice, Thompson-Cannino will share her powerful story of truth, justice and redemption. 

A panel discussion from 3:30 to 5 p.m. in White Science Center Room 107 will precede the lecture. Steve Hemphill, a member of the William Jewell College class of 1978 who has served as a human rights advisor to the Republic of Kosovo, will serve as moderator. Invited participants include Larry Harman, Clay County Circuit Judge and a member of the William Jewell class of 1975; Laura O’Sullivan, Legal Director, Midwest Innocence Project; Eric Zahnd, Platte County Prosecuting Attorney and a member of the William Jewell College class of 1991; and Kenny Hensley, a criminal defense attorney and a member of the William Jewell College class of 1976.

The Peggy Kern Lecture on Women and Society is named in memory of the mother of Jewell alumna Penny Kern White of the William Jewell class of 1968. This annual lecture honors Mrs. Peggy Kern, who lived through the Great Depression, sent a husband and son to war, developed and ran a successful business, served as an active community volunteer, and was a longstanding member of the First Baptist Church of Independence.

William Jewell College is committed to bringing together talented students and gifted faculty mentors within a vibrant community sparked by a rigorous and intentional liberal arts curriculum. A full range of personal and professional development experiences are presented by the selective national liberal arts college’s location within the Kansas City metroplex of two million.

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