Meet WILEY BRIDGEMAN and RICKY JACKSON!!!
Friday, November 21, WILEY BRIDGEMAN, 60, and RCIKY JACKSON, 57, who had been imprisoned for nearly 40 walked free after being exonerated in a 1975 murder because the key witness, a then-13-year-old boy, recanted his testimony.
ABC NEWS reports a CUYAHOGA COUNTY COMMON PLEAS judge dismissed the cases against RICKY JACKSON and WILEY BRIDGEMAN.
The witness recanted last year and said Cleveland police detectives coerced him into testifying that the men, along with Bridgeman's brother, then named RONNIE BRIDGEMAN, killed businessman HARRY FRANKS on May 19, 1975.
Thursday, November 20, CUYAHOGA COUNTY prosecutors filed the motion to dismiss all charges against RICKY JACKSON, RONNIE BRIDGEMAN, and WILEY BRIDGEMAN, who initially were sentenced to death.
RONNIE BRIDGEMAN, 57, is now known as KWAME AJAMU, was released from prison on parole in January 2003, and on Friday, Nov. 21, attended the other two men's hearings.
CUYAHOGA COUNTY COMMON PLEAS Judge RICHARD McMONAGLE said;
"Life is filled with small victories, and this is a big one."
RICKY JACKSON said;
"The English language doesn't even fit what I'm feeling. I'm on an emotional high. You sit in prison for so long and think about this day but when it actually comes you don't know what you're going to do, you just want to do something."
Bridgeman, 60, said he never lost hope that he would be freed for good.
WILEY BRIDGEMAN said;
"You keep struggling, you keep trying."
Walking out of the courthouse, brothers Bridgeman and Ajamu embraced.
KWAME AJAMU said to his brother;
"Stick with me. You'll be all right," Ajamu said. "I ain't never going to let you go."
When asked where he would now live, JACKSON replied;
"It's ironic. For 39 years, I've had a place to stay. Now, you know, that's precarious."
After being convicted, AJAMU spent his 18th birthday on DEATH ROW and remained incarcerated when his mother, a brother, and a sister passed away. Thursday during an interview, he said that the prospect of the three being together again is "mind boggling."
"The idea that my brother, both of those guys are my brothers, are getting out? I don't even care about me."
In 1975, The three were sentenced to death under an OHIO CAPITAL PUNISHMENT LAW that in 1978, the UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT declared UNCONSTITUTIONAL.
After the 1978 ruling, the WILEY BRIDGEMAN and RONNIE BRIDGEMAN (KWAME AJAMU) had their DEATH SENTENCES commuted to LIFE In PRISON. Because of a mistake in Jury Instructions, RICKY JACKSON had his DEATH SENTENCE commuted in 1977.
The three-year process that led to their exonerations began with a story published in Scene Magazine in 2011 that detailed flaws in the case, including questionable testimony by then 13-year-old EDDIE VERNON.
EDDIE VERNON, 52, recanted when a minister visited him at a hospital in 2013.
He broke down during a court hearing for Jackson on Tuesday as he described the threats by detectives and the burden of guilt he had carried for so long.
Jackson said he holds no animosity toward Vernon.
RICKY JACKSON said;
"It took a lot of courage to do what he did. He's been carrying a burden around for 39 years, like we have. But in the end, he came through, and I'm grateful for that."
Though there was no DNA Evidence, the OHIO INNOCENCE PROJECT took up Jackson's cause after the Scene article.
A Cleveland attorney represented Bridgeman and Ajamu.