Innocent man who spent 39 years in prison receives $1 million in compensation

Ricky Jackson is the longest-serving prisoner in America to have been freed after exoneration

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The Independent US

A man in Cleveland, Ohio, who was released last year after serving 39 years for a murder he did not commit is celebrating all over again after learning that the state is to pay him $1 million compensation.

“Wow, I didn’t know that,” Ricky Jackson, 59, responded after a reporter with the Cleveland Plain Dealer broke the news to him.  “Wow, wow, wow, that’s fantastic man.  I don’t even know what to say. This is going to mean so much.”

The tax-free award was made by a state judge on Thursday.  While it will make him a millionaire on paper, the money will be deposited into a fund to be managed on Mr Jackson’s behalf by his lawyer.

 “He’s probably the wisest person I’ve ever met,” Michele Berry, who works for the Innocence Project, said. “After going through all that he did, I think he’s conquered humanity.  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 honour.”

Mr Jackson is the longest-serving prisoner in America to have been freed after exoneration. He and two other men were convicted in 1975 for murdering a money order salesman on a Cleveland street largely on the basis of a 12-year-old boy who said he had witnessed the killing. The other two men, who are also now free, were Wiley Bridgeman and his brother Ronnie, now known as Kwame Ajamu.

It was nearly four decades later when the witness, Eddie Vernon, came forward and admitted he had made up the story and others corroborated that he was in fact on a school bus at the time of the murder and could not have witnessed it.  Since being released last November, Mr Jackson has met Mr Vernon and forgiven him.   He was 19 years old when he was convicted.

Ms Berry indicated that Mr Jackson may receive a second tranche of $1 million based on a formula adopted by the Claims Court that takes lost potential earnings into account.  Judge Patrick McGrath, who ordered the first check be written for Mr Jackson, is expected to award compensation for the other two men wrongly imprisoned in the case in the coming days.