The last of the three men who spent decades in prison for a murder they did not commit appeared in court Tuesday to have the charges formally dismissed.
It was a simple sentence that hit Kwame Ajamu like a ton of bricks. Judge Pamela Barker addressed his 1975 conviction for a role in a robbery and murder saying, "It is dismissed against Mr. Ajamu and the original conviction is, in fact, vacated."
He was known as Ronnie Bridgeman in 1975, a 12-year-old identified him, his brother and another man as the robbers. As an adult, the witness recanted.
His brother, Wiley Bridgeman, and the third man, Ricky Jackson, were released earlier this month after spending nearly 40 years locked up.
"This room is lit with truth and so I'm so overjoyed today. If there is anything I have to say it is 'thank you,'" Ajamu told the judge.
There was no anger or resentment in his voice, which seems amazing after what the system had put him through. He hopes for change.
"It is my hope from this day on, we can stop ignoring what is obvious in the criminal justice system and move forward with peace, and love, and harmony. I have no bitter feelings toward anyone," said Ajamu.
Ajamu got out of prison in 2003, but the conviction remained. He says it placed hurtle after hurtle in his path, as he tried to find work.
"Every job that I have is, you know, temp work, anything that would not expose the fact that Kwame Ajamu was at one time, Ronnie Bridgeman," he said.
"The smiles, the support and the thankfulness is beyond words, as far as I'm concerned. So I wish you the best of luck," said Judge Barker.
The declaration of innocence clears the way for compensation from the state for wrongful imprisonment. His attorney, Terry Gilbert, was moved.
"I can't imagine any other moment in my career and I've had many great moments as satisfying as this," said Gilbert.
It was a moment that had Kwame Ajamu looking forward, not back.