Ricky Jackson Spent 39 Years in Prison for Crimes He Did Not Commit

Photo courtesy of the Ohio Innocence Project
Photo courtesy of the Ohio Innocence Project

CLEVELAND, May 19, 2015 – After spending more time wrongly imprisoned than any other person in U.S. history, today Ricky Jackson filed suit against the City of Cleveland and the police who allegedly framed him.

In 1975 at the age of 18, Jackson began serving prison time which stretched into virtually his entire adult lifetime. In their quest to get him locked up for a crime he did not commit, Cleveland police allegedly withheld and destroyed exculpatory evidence, fabricated evidence, and intimidated a 12-year-old youth into falsely fingering Mr. Jackson for murder.

Exactly 40 years ago today, two people robbed and murdered Harold Franks, a money order salesman, outside of a Cleveland corner store. Jackson and two other neighborhood youth, Wiley and Ronnie Bridgeman, were accused of the crime based solely on the testimony of a 12-year-old boy, Edward Vernon. But as Vernon admitted nearly 40 years later, police threatened and coerced him into falsely testifying against Jackson. His statement implicating Jackson was a complete fabrication created by Cleveland detectives.

The suit also alleges that the detectives withheld exculpatory evidence from prosecutors, Jackson, and his defense attorneys, including notes and memos of witness interviews, and physically attacked Jackson in an unsuccessful attempt to get him to falsely confess to the crimes.

There was never any physical or other evidence implicating Jackson and the Bridgeman brothers, but they were nonetheless all wrongfully convicted of the robbery and murder of Harold Franks. Jackson was sentenced to die by electric chair and it was not until 1978 that his death sentence was commuted to life in prison.

After Vernon came forward with the truth, Jackson and his attorneys at the Ohio Innocence Project filed a motion and petition seeking a new trial based on this new evidence of his innocence. In November 2014, the State of Ohio formally dismissed all charges against Jackson. Jackson subsequently received a declaration of innocence from the Court of Common Pleas which stated that he had been wrongfully imprisoned and that he did not commit the crimes with which he had been charged.

In serving almost four decades behind bars, Jackson suffered immeasurable emotional pain, stripped of the various pleasures of basic human experience, from the simplest to the most important. He missed out on the ability to share holidays, births, funerals, and other life events with loved ones, the opportunity to fall in love and marry and pursue a career. He lost his mother, father, stepfather, and other loved ones during his wrongful incarceration. In addition, Jackson suffered physical injuries and assaults during his wrongful imprisonment.

“Mr. Jackson served four decades in prison for a crime he had nothing to do with.  This lawsuit seeks compensation for that grievous injustice,” said his attorney, Jon Loevy of Loevy & Loevy Attorneys at Law of Chicago. “We now know substantially more about the fallibility of eyewitness identifications.  Too many people have been sent to prison wrongfully based on bogus identifications.”

Besides Mr. Loevy, Mr. Jackson is also represented by Elizabeth Wang of Loevy & Loevy of Boulder, Colorado. Loevy & Loevy is the largest civil rights law firm in the Midwest, has offices in Chicago and Boulder, and has won more multi-million dollar jury verdicts than any other civil rights law firm in the entire country over the past decade. Copies of the suit, Ricky Jackson v. City of Cleveland, et al., No. 1:15-CV-989, are available here.

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