I See Ya, But How Did I Get to Be Ya?


Black people frequently accuse white people of treating us as though we all look alike. So, when one hears of a Black person having been wrongly convicted in a case of mistaken identity, particularly in as tragic a context as sexual assault, one is usually prepared to write it off as another instance of said Caucasian arrogance, taken to grave ends.

In the 1984 case of Jennifer Thompson, 22, however, raped in Burlington NC while attending college, I can actually see why, in a photo lineup, she mistakenly and tragically identified Ronald Cotton, above left, as her assailant. (She confused him with Bobby Poole, above right, her actual rapist, but whose picture was not part of the grouping.)

Can you say doppelgänger? The duo don’t even look like they’re related. They look, at least, like before and after pictures of the same man, taken a year or two apart.

The close physical resemblance of these two men plays, as well, another unexpected role in this two-part feature from last night’s 60 Minutes. If you missed it, check out the transcript, or ogle part 1, then part 2 of the episode via online video.


1 comment so far ↓

#1 Jose on 03.09.09 at 10:55 am

As someone who’s often been misidentified, I have to say that these two gentlemen really don’t look alike. Notice the first man has a thinner jaw structure, thinner eyes, flatter cheek structure, and thinner lips. While we’re so quick to point out comparisons, in the case as serious as, say, rape, it’s extremely important to get the right assailant.

Leave a Comment