Ricky Jackson, 57, of Cleveland, smiles as he speaks with reporters, after being released from a life sentence an hour earlier on Nov. 20, 2014 in Cleveland.
Photo by Phil Long/AP

Ohio court awards wrongly imprisoned man over $1 million

CLEVELAND — A man who was sentenced to death for a killing he didn’t commit and spent nearly four decades behind bars will receive more than $1 million from the state for wrongful imprisonment, a court ruled Thursday.

Ricky Jackson, 58, was one of three men sent to death row in 1975 after being convicted of aggravated murder in the slaying of a businessman outside a corner store in Cleveland. Cuyahoga County prosecutors at the time relied on the testimony of a 13-year-old boy to convict Jackson and two brothers who were Jackson’s best friends.

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The boy, Eddie Vernon, said he saw the slaying, but he was in a school bus with other children about a block away when the businessman was shot. The now-grown Vernon signed an affidavit that the Ohio Innocence Project filed last March, saying police coerced him into testifying against Jackson, Wiley Bridgeman and Ronnie Bridgeman, now known as Kwame Ajamu.

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Based on the recantation and corroborating testimony that Vernon lied in 1975, a judge dismissed the charges against the three men in November.

Jackson’s payment comes after a judge ruled last month that all three men were entitled to compensation. The Court of Claims ordered the state to pay Jackson $1,008,055 for the nearly 39 years he spent in state prison. When Jackson was released in November he was believed to have served the longest sentence for someone wrongfully convicted.

Neither Jackson nor his attorney could be reached for comment on Thursday.

Wiley Bridgeman also was released from prison in November. He originally was paroled in 2002 but was sent back to prison several months later after an argument with a parole officer. Ajamu was paroled in 2003.

Bridgeman and Ajamu haven’t received their compensation yet.

The men’s slow march toward exoneration got its initial boost in 2011, after an investigation by Scene magazine.

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Ohio court awards wrongly imprisoned man over $1 million