Wrongful convictions of three innocent men 39 years ago in Ohio set aside

Friday, November 21, 2014

Good morning:

Good news today.

Professor Mark Godsey, Director of the Ohio Innocence Project at the University of Cincinnati College of Law, writes in today’s Huffington Post,

This morning, Ricky Jackson walked out of the Cuyahoga County courtroom in downtown Cleveland a free man after 39 years in prison–several of those on death row–for a murder he didn’t commit. The last time he tasted freedom was in 1975 when a postage stamp cost 10 cents, Gerald Ford was president, Pete Rose was the World Series MVP, Billie Jean King won Wimbledon, and Saturday Night Live had just premiered.

Jackson and his codefendants, Wiley and Ronnie Bridgeman, are black. They were convicted of murdering a white businessman named Harry Franks and sentenced to die in the electric chair in 1975. Their sentences were commuted to life in prison after the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) declared a similar Georgia death penalty statute unconstitutional.

Police misconduct caused their wrongful convictions. They terrified a 12-year-old boy, Ed Vernon, who initially lied to police claiming he witnessed the shooting when, in fact, he was a passenger in a school bus a couple of blocks away and did not see it. When he attempted to recant his statement, they screamed, threw objects at him and threatened to send his parents to prison for attempting to get him to change his story. He capitulated, testified in court and identified them as the killers.

Vernon recanted his story under oath in court last week and two witnesses who had been riding on the bus with Vernon that day testified that no one on the bus could have witnessed the murder because the location where it happened was not visible.

I suspect ineffective assistance of counsel played a role in the wrongful convictions because defense counsel should have assigned an investigator to check-out the scene and interview the school bus driver and all of the students on the bus before trial. If that had been done, defense counsel would have been able to impeach Vernon’s credibility and save their clients from death sentences and 39 years in prison.

For more information, go here.

6 Responses to Wrongful convictions of three innocent men 39 years ago in Ohio set aside

  1. Diamonique says:

    Was anything done to the police/investigators from their misconduct?

    • No, and that’s not unusual.

      I should add that nearly 40 years have passed, so it’s possible that they no longer work for the department and may even have died.

      The question is will the State of Ohio compensate them and it may not. They will have to file claims and it may take a year or more to find out.

      Meanwhile . . .

  2. Malisha says:

    You know, it’s hard for me to believe, but of course it’s absolutely true and in fact commonplace: these prosecutors, these police, these judges, appeals judges, federal habeas judges, etc. etc., they ALL ignore information, hide information, make UP information, distort and lie about information, etc. etc.

    How do they live with themselves? No shame? No guilt? No regrets? WHO. ARE. THESE. PEOPLE?

  3. bettykath says:

    So glad the Innocence Project has another success. I look forward to a time when there is no need for it.

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