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Wiley Bridgeman (1954-2021)

Exoneree Name

State: Ohio

Convicted: 1975

Exonerated: 2014

Race: Black

DNA used in exoneration? No

Reasons for wrongful conviction:

False testimony

Police misconduct

On June 27, 2021 Wiley Bridgeman got his wings. A devastating loss for his devoted brother Kwame Ajamu who was steadfastly by his side through decades of wrongful incarceration and through the joys and sorrows of life after exoneration. Wiley will be deeply be missed by the Witness to Innocence family and all who knew him. We will forever remember his humble graciousness, his sagacious poetry and his warm smile.

Below is an excerpt from Wiley's book of poetry There's A Something I Meant to Tell You - a compilation of poetry and prose, where each poem is depicted by its following prose.

"Growing, Staying Young"

You help me as we skated

Something my years had never done

Your aurora glowed relating

Growing, staying young

As everything we seemed to do

A miracle took place

Elevating me and you, and

Youth adorned our face

I'm happy with our everything

The same as our Day One

Our experiences will always ring

Growing, staying young


Speak, Rose, Sparkling Beauty

Whose greater than we being?

You shall grow, as I shall grow

Resplendence worth a seeing

Have we not forgotten that

A day our blooms are done?

Or do we live to exonerate

Growing, staying young

Wiley's Wrongful Conviction

Wiley Bridgeman was 20 years old and living in Cleveland, Ohio, when he became a victim of wrongful conviction due to false testimony and police misconduct. The sole evidence against Wiley, and his co-defendants, brother Ronnie Bridgeman (aka Kwame Ajamu) and friend Ricky Jackson, 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 1975 murder-robbery of Harold Franks, 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.

In 2002, Wiley was granted parole. Several weeks later, he was living in a shelter in Cleveland when he had an ill-fated, accidental encounter with Vernon, who was working as a security guard at the shelter. Vernon's supervisor told Vernon to report the contact to Wiley’s parole officer because the contact was prohibited by the terms of Wiley’s parole. Vernon did so and as a result, Wiley’s parole was revoked and he was sent back to prison after being free for only about three months.

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 openly talk 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.

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