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Friday, November 21, 2014

Ohio Men Wrongly Convicted of Murder After 39 Years Released

Two Ohio men wrongly accused of murder four decades ago are walking free Friday morning after spending 39 years behind bars. A Cleveland judge on Wednesday had dropped all charges against Ricky Jackson, 57, and Wiley Bridgeman, 60, allowing for the pair’s release. The Ohio Innocence Project, which took up the case, said Jackson had been the longest-held U.S. prisoner to be exonerated.
Jackson was 19 when he was convicted along with Bridgeman and Bridgeman’s brother, Ronnie, in the 1975 shooting death and robbery of Harold Franks, a Cleveland-area money order salesman. Testimony from a 13-year-old helped point to Jackson as the triggerman and led a jury to convict all three. But that witness, now 53, recanted his testimony last year, saying he was coerced by detectives, according to court documents.
A story published in Scene Magazine in 2011 first raised new questions about the murder and whether Jackson and the Bridgeman brothers actually committed the crime. Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty said in court Tuesday that without an eyewitness there was not much of a case. “The state is conceding the obvious," he said, according to Reuters.
Ronnie Bridgeman, now known as Kwame Ajamu, was paroled from prison in 2003. Jackson was originally sentenced to death but that sentence was vacated because of a paperwork error. The Bridgeman brothers remained on death row until Ohio declared the death penalty unconstitutional in 1978. “One of them came within 20 days of execution before Ohio ruled the death penalty unconstitutional” said Mark Godsey, director of the Ohio Innocence Project.

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