Q: What are your overall thoughts on this case?
GAULDIN: One of the things that I've always been concerned about in being a police officer is that I've always hoped that I would never work on a case that would falsely imprison somebody, and of course, now I know that I have. I've been part of a case ... led to Ronald Cotton being in prison for 11 years for something that he didn't do.
But in all candor, I've done a lot of soul searching and we've looked at the files; I've reread them time and time again. There's nothing that I would have done differently.
If DNA had existed in 1984 and in 1987 we would have used it. When this was brought forward in 1995, we didn't object to this evidence being subjected to DNA testing. We wholeheartedly supported it. We voluntarily yielded for that reason, and when the DNA showed that there was a different perpetrator other than Ronald Cotton, we pursued Bobby Poole.
I'm very sorry that Ronald Cotton was imprisoned for 11 years and that has caused me to do a lot of soul searching and thinking about his situation, but I can't see what would have been done differently in 1984 and 1987.
Q: And your thoughts on DNA?
GAULDIN: It is the critical piece of evidence that ultimately exonerated Ronald Cotton, and incriminated Bobby Poole.
Q: So it worked two jobs.
GAULDIN: In this particular case, the DNA evidence not only excluded somebody--namely, Ronald Cotton--but it included somebody--namely, Bobby Poole. And I think it was a first in the state that has ever happened.
For those who speculate about (DNA's) usefulness, its importance--this case is a shining example of how important it is. Not only did it exclude Cotton, but it included another assailant who ultimately confessed to both cases. It's very critical evidence. Of course, it all hinges on how well it's tested, how well it's been collected and maintained which is at sometimes an issue.
Q: And, you are using the Cotton case now in teaching?
GAULDIN: I recently used this case in teaching entry-level police officers in our academy how important the process of criminal investigation is. To show how important it is to do everything, or try to do everything right, because in this case, I honestly believe that we did everything that we could do at the time in 1984 and in 1987...
I used this case to illustrate to them that even when you have a very good case, even when you do everything right, that this case serves as an example of what can happen to somebody. They can be imprisoned for a crime that they didn't commit; and ultimately I led to the point that imagine what would happen if you conducted an investigation that was not conducted properly of what could happen.
Q: Did you watch the Larry King Live Show when Ronald Cotton appeared on it?
GAULDIN: I was very interested in watching the Larry King Live Show when I found out that Ronald Cotton was going to appear on it. I wanted to see Ronald Cotton and to hear what Ronald Cotton had to say because I had not had an opportunity to see him before then, and I was very surprised and actually taken back a bit by Ronald Cotton's demeanor because it really surprised me that he seemed not to hold any animosity toward the system, toward the prosecution, toward the police, toward the victims, and it really astounded me that he didn't.
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