Man wrongfully accused of murder will be free after serving 39 y - Cleveland 19 News Cleveland, OH

Man wrongfully accused of murder will be free after serving 39 years in prison

Ricky Jackson is soon to be a free man. (Source: Ohio Department of Corrections) Ricky Jackson is soon to be a free man. (Source: Ohio Department of Corrections)
The Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office says a man wrongfully convicted of murder in 1975 will walk out of prison to freedom on Friday.

Ricky Jackson was labeled a killer and stripped of his life as a free man when a 12-year-old boy fabricated an account of a deadly attack on a Cleveland grocery store employee. 

Jackson and two of his friends, brothers Wiley and Ronnie Bridgeman, never stood a chance when young Eddie Vernon boldly went to police with hearsay disguised as the unadulterated truth. The case against the men was sealed by Vernon's testimony.

If it wasn't for the Cleveland Scene and reporter Kyle Swenson, Jackson would still be in prison. In 2011, they dug deep into the 36-year-old case and started asking tough questions.

"It was pretty dramatic. It was a little hard to believe this all happened," said Swenson.

Swenson discovered conflicting views in the neighborhood with Vernon's testimony.

The Ohio Innocence Project then got involved based on the 2011 article.

Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty told Judge Richard McMonagle that the case against Jackson held no weight, considering it was based on the recantation of Vernon. Prosecutors dismissed the case.

Jackson broke into tears once he realized his nightmare was coming to an end.

"He began crying. He had his hands up on a table. He had his face buried in this hands. He was very emotional," described Swenson.

He called his family to let them know he would be let go on Friday during a 9 a.m. hearing in front of Judge McMonagle.

He thanked his attorneys from the Ohio Innocence Project, Brian Howe and Mark Godsey, and a team of supporters for their hard work and dedication. Jackson was seeking a new trial based on Vernon's attempt to correct a lie about what he claimed he saw May 19, 1975.

This week, Vernon told Judge McMonagle that he had lied to police, prosecutors, and jurors when he was a boy. He never saw the three men. Vernon says all the information was fed to him and he has no idea what happened at the scene of the crime. He blames police pressure back in 1975 for not telling the truth.

Terry Gilbert and David Mills, the attorneys for Wiley and Ronnie Bridgeman, are expected to ask that the case against the brothers be dismissed, as well. Wiley remains behind bars at this time. His brother, Ronnie, paroled in 2003. On Friday, Jackson will walk out of prison a free man at the age of 59.

"These are not men who are bitter or angry. I think they maintained their dignity through all of this, which is pretty incredible," said Swenson.

Authorities said two men cornered Harold Franks as he walked to the store. They beat and threw acid in his face before one of the attackers shot him twice. The gunman also hit Anna Robinson, the store owner's wife. The men then stole Franks' briefcase and fled to a waiting car.

A spokesman for McGinty's office said it is unlikely for any charges to be brought against Vernon. Jackson has told the Cleveland Scene he understands what the boy went through back in 1975 and isn't angry at the grown man now.  

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