In 2014, Ricky Jackson, a 57-year-old African-American man from Ohio, was exonerated of all wrongdoing after spending 39 years in prison for a Cleveland area murder he was falsely accused of committing. Now, as of March 2015, Jackson will receive more than $1 million from the State of Ohio, an amount ordered by one of the state’s Court of Claims judge as compensation for the suffering Jackson experienced during nearly four decades of being jailed for a crime he did not commit.
Jackson, who has been free for only a year, originally learned of this pending payment not from the court, but from a journalist interviewing him on the subject. His response was one of excitement: “Wow, wow, wow, that’s fantastic, man,” he said to the reporter upon discovering the news. “I don’t even know what to say. This is going to mean so much.”
Unfair Compensation For A Wronged Man
Despite Ricky Jackson’s gratitude for the impending payment, according to a trial attorney interviewed by Aljazeera News, the $1,008,055 Jackson will receive is actually a low amount for the legal circumstance, and should be at least double this amount in Ohio, based on a $40,330 per year compensation requirement for wrongful imprisonment. Rather than receiving the required amount he deserves outright, Jackson will need to attend more hearings to potentially secure his lawfully-owed compensation. In contrast, a man who was recently released after 22 years wrongfully in prison received $9.2 million in the D.C. area, far more payment for far less time.
Negligent Police Detective Work Locked Him Up
The crime Ricky Jackson was originally accused of in 1975 was the murder of a money order salesman, Harold Franks. According to the newspaper The Plain Dealer, Franks was killed outside of a store by a combination of beatings, acid, and gunshot wounds. No evidence linked Jackson to the crime, except for the testimony of a 12-year-old child who claimed he witnessed the event. However, this child, Eddie Vernon, many years later revealed that he had lied and had never seen the murder. In fact, several actual eye-witness accounts described Vernon as sitting on a school bus far away at the time of the murder, making it impossible for him to see the crime.
According to Vernon in an interview with CBS, although he carries a tremendous amount of personal guilt and shame about his lie, the case also points to police corruption and discrimination. He insists the police “knew that I didn’t see anything. They knew that it was a lie,” and took advantage of a child who was eager to help law enforcement. Vernon says the police fed him information he had not been previously aware of, and coached him on how to make it seem like Ricky Jackson had committed the crime, even though Vernon could not even recognize Jackson in a police lineup.
No Happily Ever After
Due to Vernon’s sole, later recanted testimony, Jackson had originally nearly been sentenced to death, and only avoided Death Row because of an issue with court paperwork. Yet, even though his life was spared, he was unable to live his life as a free man, and now suffers emotional and physical damage from this period of his life. According to an interview with CBS, the last time Jackson “felt alive” was the day before the false accusation. Jackson holds the unfortunate record of being the United States prisoner to be imprisoned the longest amount of time (nearly 40 years) before being cleared of charges.
There is no word yet if the other falsely accused men, Wiley Bridgeman and his brother Kwame Ajamu, who were also cleared of charges in 2002 and 2003 respectively, will also receive monetary reparations of any amount for their own wrongful imprisonment.