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article imageReleased from jail after 39 years, innocent man now a millionaire

By Megan Hamilton     Mar 21, 2015 in World
Cleveland - He spent 39 years trapped in prison for a murder he did not commit, based on the testimony of a 13-year-old boy.
Now, a court has ruled that Ricky Jackson, 58, will receive $1 million from the state for his wrongful imprisonment.
Jackson and two other men were sent to death row in 1975 when they were convicted of aggravated murder after after a businessman was slain outside a small store in Cleveland. At the time, prosecutors in Cuyahoga county relied on the testimony of Eddie Vernon, then 13, to convict Jackson and two brothers who were Jackson's best friends, The Guardian reports.
It should be duly noted that some reports say that Vernon was 12 at the time.
Although Vernon said he'd seen the slaying, at the time when the businessman was shot, Jackson was in a school bus with other kids about one block away. Vernon, in an affidavit filed by the Ohio Innocence Project last March, said that police coerced him into testifying against Jackson, Wiley Bridgeman and Ronnie Bridgeman, who now goes by the name Kwame Ajamu.
Al-Jazeera reports that there was no other evidence that linked Jackson to the murder, and charges against Bridgeman and Ajamu were also dropped last year.
The $1,008,055 in compensation that has been ordered for Jackson is only half of the total amount he is entitled to, according to Ohio state law. He could receive more if he appears for additional hearings, Michael Hill, a trial attorney with Spangenberg Shibley and Liber, based in Ohio, told Al-Jazeera.
Several states, including Ohio, have statutes which stipulate a fixed amount of compensation for each year of imprisonment for each person who was wrongfully incarcerated, the Innocence Project reports, per Al-Jazeera.
In Ohio, the amount stipulated is $40,330 per year. This is subject to adjustment by the sate auditor.
"The annual adjusted amount determined by the auditor currently, and as applied to Jackson, is $51,901.58," Hill said. " It was determined in the Court of Claims that Mr. Jackson had served 14,178 days wrongfully, so he got 50 percent of that current going rate, if you will, immediately."
Jackson didn't know about the $1 million award until he was contacted by a journalist from the Cleveland Plain Dealer last Thursday.
"Wow, I didn't know that," Jackson said. "Wow wow wow, that's fantastic, man. I don't even know what to say. This is going to mean so much."
The award is tax-free and will be deposited into an account that will be run by a financial advisor who will help Jackson receive the payments and handle the money wisely, his attorney, Michele Berry of Cincinnati, told the Plain Dealer. Berry is an attorney for the Innocence Project.
Berry was ecstatic when she heard the news, and she voiced appreciation for everything that Jackson went through.
"It's been an honor to work for and with Ricky," she said. "He's probably the wisest person I've ever met."
Berry told the Plain Dealer that she was awestruck by Jackson's strength, and his ability to rise above the trauma of 39 years of wrongful imprisonment.
"After going through all that he did, I think he's conquered humanity," she said. "To even have a small part in helping him to get his next 39 years underway and to get these payments from the state is an honor."
Jackson met with Vernon and has forgiven him. In 2003, Ajamu was released from prison. He now lives with his wife in the Slavic Village neighborhood. Wiley moved in with them and is writing his memoirs.
For Ajamu and Bridgeman, the Court of Claims is a bit behind, but they should also be receiving checks soon, Berry said.
It's believed that Jackson, who was released in November, has served the longest sentence for someone wrongfully convicted, The Guardian reports.
The Plain Dealer reports that Jackson's new-found life of freedom and the grace in which he handles it amazes people. He left behind the hatred that roiled inside him for 39 years, and is moving forward. He says he is grateful for everyone who has helped him.
"It was really refreshing to have someone with so much integrity," Jackson said, praising the assistant attorney generals and the Cuyahoga County prosecutors.
"I really have to take my hat off to the prosecutors and the state for admitting their errors."
Exonerated prisoners need more than just monetary compensation. They need financial support for every day necessesities like food and transportation, Al-Jazeera reports. They also need help finding affordable housing, health care and counseling services, as well as job skills training. Legal services that help exonerated prisoners to obtain public benefits, expunge criminal records, and regain custody of children are also in order.
In 2014, a record 125 defendants wrongly convicted of crimes were exonerated, the National Registry of Exonerations at the University of Michigan Law School reports. This figure means that there has been an increase by one-third of exonerations since 2012, Al-Jazeera notes.
More about innocent man millionaire, released from jail after 39 years, 39 years in jail, Ricky Jackson, eddie vernon
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