Two Men Set Free from Prison After Witness Recants Testimony in 1975 Cleveland Murder Case

Ricky Jackson (c.), 57, with lawyers Mark Godsey (l.) and Brian Howe, looks skyward after being released from his life sentence for a 1975 murder he did not commit. (PHIL LONG/AP)
Ricky Jackson (c.), 57, with lawyers Mark Godsey (l.) and Brian Howe, looks skyward after being released from his life sentence for a 1975 murder he did not commit. (PHIL LONG/AP)

Two men imprisoned for nearly four decades walked free on Friday after being exonerated in a 1975 murder because the key witness against them – a then-13-year-old boy – recanted his testimony.

Earlier a Cuyahoga County Common Pleas judge dismissed the cases against Ricky Jackson, 57, and Wiley Bridgeman, 60. The witness recanted last year and said Cleveland police detectives coerced him into testifying that the men, along with Bridgeman’s brother, killed businessman Harry Franks on May 19, 1975.

Cuyahoga County prosecutors on Thursday filed the motion to dismiss all charges against the three men, who initially were sentenced to death. Ronnie Bridgeman, 57, who is now known as Kwame Ajamu, was released from prison in January 2003. He attended the other two men’s hearings Friday.

When he dismissed Jackson’s case, Judge Richard McMonagle said, “Life is filled with small victories, and this is a big one.”

“The English language doesn’t even fit what I’m feeling,” Jackson said as he exited the building Friday. “I’m on an emotional high. You sit in prison for so long and think about this day but when it actually comes you don’t know what you’re going to do, you just want to do something.”

Bridgeman, 60, said he never lost hope that he would be freed for good.

“You keep struggling, you keep trying,” he said.

Bridgeman embraced his brother Ajamu as he walked out of the courthouse. He seemed overwhelmed by the whirlwind of the past few days, saying he wasn’t sure what the future holds, outside of a celebratory fish dinner.

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SOURCE: NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

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