Monday, January 5, 2015

Two men wrongfully convicted released from prison after 39 years

Two men wrongfully convicted released from prison after 39 years

Posted: Nov 21, 2014 8:07 AM CST Updated: Nov 21, 2014 6:10 PM CST

The case against Ricky Jackson and Wiley Bridgeman has been dismissed. The two were wrongfully convicted of murder in 1975 when a 12-year-old boy fabricated an account of a deadly attack on a Cleveland grocery store employee. 

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

Ronnie Bridgeman was released in 2003 after serving his time. 

If it wasn't for the Cleveland Scene and reporter Kyle Swenson, the other two 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.

Friday morning in court, Jackson thanked the court for a fair and impartial proceeding.

After his release in a impromptu news conference, the 57-year-old Jackson said he always believed this day would come. A man wrongfully convicted may have a different view of the justice system. Not Jackson. 

"I believe in the system. I believe it works," said Jackson. 

"Words can't express how I feel. Just glad to be out. Glad to be a free man," he added. 

When asked about his family, Jackson said, "I am dying to meet them. I am going to embrace them and hug them...Excuse me.  Cause we been thru a lot together.  We made it. We are here. We made it."

Bridgeman said he's not at all bitter about what has happened. "I'm at the end of that," said Bridgeman. 

He's happy to be out and ready to do something productive. He's not sure exactly what that is, but he knows he would like to continue his writing. 

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