Archive

ShareThis Page
Ohio judge frees 2 men in 1975 murder as then-teen witness recants | TribLIVE.com
News

Ohio judge frees 2 men in 1975 murder as then-teen witness recants

The Associated Press
| Friday, November 21, 2014 9:39 p.m

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

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 Ronnie Bridgeman, brother of Wiley — 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 isn’t sure what the future holds, outside of a celebratory fish dinner.

“Stick with me. You’ll be all right,” Ajamu said. “I ain’t never going to let you go.”

Jackson and his lawyers planned to celebrate Friday at a hotel. Asked where he was going to live, Jackson replied: “It’s ironic. For 39 years, I’ve had a place to stay. Now, you know, that’s precarious.”

Ajamu said in an interview Thursday that the prospect of the three being together again is “mind-boggling.” Ajamu spent his 18th birthday on death row and was in prison when his mother, a brother and a sister died.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.