Man wrongfully convicted of murder freed after 39 years in prison

Ricky Jackson, who was convicted of murder in 1975, will be leaving the Cuyahoga County Justice Center as a free man today, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports. Jackson spent 39 years in jail for the crime, which involved the robbery and murder of a money order salesman. His conviction was largely based on the eyewitness testimony of Eddie Vernon, who was 12 years old at the time the crime took place. Vernon, now 53, recently recanted his testimony, stating that he had lied about everything he had told police at the time.

Vernon had told police that Jackson and two other men, Wiley and Ronnie Bridgeman, were responsible for the crime. In coming forward, Vernon claims that all of the descriptive information he gave to police was fed to him, and that detectives had told him that if he disclosed what he had done, they would imprison his parents for perjury, according to the Plain Dealer. Vernon testified at a hearing on Monday that he was on a bus with other children when he heard the gun shots. The bus was near the location of the shooting, but not in a place where Vernon could see anything. Others on the bus corroborated this.

Vernon had gone to police on a friend's word with the intent to help authorities and things spun out of control, the Plain Dealer reports. Jackson and the Bridgemans were convicted for the murder based on Vernon's testimony. No other evidence tied them to the crime. After Vernon recanted his testimony on Monday, the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor conceded that they no longer had a case against Jackson and dismissed the case. 

Jackson was represented by Mark Godsey and Brian Howe of the Ohio Innocence Project. The case was formally dismissed by Judge McGonagle of the Cuyahoga Common Pleas Court this morning. The case against Wiley Bridgeman was dismissed two hours later, NewsNet5 of Cleveland reports.