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Ricky Jackson

State: Ohio

Convicted: 1975

Exonerated: 2014

Race: Black

DNA used in exoneration? No

 

Reasons for wrongful conviction:

False eyewitness testimony 

Police misconduct

Ricky's Wrongful Conviction

 

Ricky Jackson was a teenager living in Cleveland, Ohio, when he was sentenced to death in 1975 for the murder-robbery of a money order salesman named Harold Franks. The sole evidence against Ricky and his co-defendants, brothers Wiley and Ronnie Bridgeman (aka Kwame Ajamu), was the false, coerced eyewitness testimony of a 13-year-old boy named Eddie Vernon, who was to later play a central role in exonerating the three men. No physical or forensic evidence linked any of them to the crime, none of them had any prior criminal record, and defense witnesses provided all three with credible alibis. Nevertheless, all three were sentenced to death just months after their arrest, later commuted to life without parole.

 

Unlike his co-defendants, Ricky was never granted parole, since he was considered the actual shooter in the murder-robbery of Harold Franks. Ricky wound up serving 39 years, three months and nine days—the longest time in prison of any person exonerated in U.S. history.

 

In 2011, Cleveland Scene magazine published a detailed examination of the case and highlighted the numerous inconsistencies in young Eddie Vernon’s testimony, and the absence of any other evidence linking Jackson and the Bridgemans to the crime. The reporter reached out to the pastor of Vernon in an attempt to talk to him, but Vernon still refused to talk openly about the case. The pastor later said in a sworn affidavit that “Edward Vernon told me that he lied to the police when he said he had witnessed the murder in 1975, and he had put three innocent men in prison for murder. He told me that he tried to back out of the lie at the time of the line-up, but he was only a child and the police told him it was too late to change his story.” At the urging of his pastor, Vernon publicly recanted his story, setting in motion the exonerations of Kwame Ajamu, Wiley Bridgeman, and Ricky Jackson.

 

Prompted by the recantation, attorneys with the Ohio Innocence Project filed a petition for a new trial on behalf of Jackson. Similar petitions were later filed on behalf of Wiley Bridgeman and Ronnie Bridgeman, who had since changed his name to Kwame Ajamu. The Ohio Innocence Project’s re-investigation of the case uncovered evidence that when Vernon attempted to recant his identification of the three defendants, police intimidated him to testify falsely. The police had never disclosed to the defense attorneys for the three defendants that Vernon attempted to recant his accusation prior to the trials.

 

In November 2014, Judge Richard McMonagle granted motions for a new trial filed by Ricky Jackson and Wiley Bridgeman and vacated their convictions. The prosecution then dismissed the charges against both of them and they were released. On December 9, 2014, Kwame Ajamu's conviction was vacated and the prosecution dismissed the charges against him.

 

Publications:

 

Good Kids, Bad City

  • Written by Kyle Swenson, this book chronicles the wrongful convictions of Kwame Ajamu, Ricky Jackson, and Wiley Bridgeman.

  • It is "the true story of the longest wrongful imprisonment in the United States to end in exoneration and a critical social and political history of Cleveland, the city that convicted them."

  • Reviewed by the Washington Post, New York Times, and more

  • An Amazon Best Book, February 2019

 

In The Media:

 

11.21.14 Ohio Man Ricky Jackson, Exonerated After 39 Years in Prison, Sues Police

11.26.14 Ricky Jackson on Democracy Now

3.20.15 Ohio man exonerated after 39 years will receive over $1 million

3.25.15 Why few of Ohio's exonerated prisoners are compensated like Ricky Jackson

10.1.15 Finding freedom in an art museum

3.14.16 Exonerated death row inmate: Clinton wrong on death penalty

4.8.16 Exoneree Ricky Jackson to Receive $2.65 Million for Wrongful Conviction

1.6.17 After 39 Years of Wrongful Imprisonment, Ricky Jackson Is Finally Free

12.7.18 He Served the Longest Sentence of Any Innocent U.S. Inmate

2.12.19 "Good Kids, Bad City" Examines A '70s Wrongful Conviction

2.12.19 Good Kids, Bad City: Overturning One of the Longest Wrongful Convictions in History

2.17.19 ‘Good Kids, Bad City’ author says wrongful convictions reveal systemic problems

2.20.19 Three Wrongfully Convicted Men, 40 Years, and a City That Still Refuses to be Honest With Itself

3.7.19 Exonerated for a Murder They Didn’t Commit

10.2.19 Ohio man wrongly convicted of murder speaks at Radford

 

 

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