Three men were convicted back in 1975 when they were young men, and an investigation revealed police tampered with evidence and hid evidence that they were innocent.
Three men who once called Death Row home have been awarded $18 million by the City of Cleveland. Kwame Ajamu, his brother Wiley Bridgeman, and Rickey Jackson were once accused of the robbery and murder of a man named Harold Franks. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, the three men were arrested and convicted back in 1975 when Ajamu was 17, Jackson was 18, and Bridgeman was 20.
At the time, there wasn’t any physical evidence to link any of the three suspects to the murder, but four months after the violent incident, their trials began. A 12-year-old boy reportedly testified against the young men, but it was later learned that he had been coerced by Cleveland officers. A decade later, the boy—who was a young man, himself—recanted his testimony and stated that police threatened to throw his parents in jail if he didn’t comply. An investigation also reportedly uncovered that police tampered and falsified evidence, as well a hid evidence that proved the trio couldn’t have been the perpetrators.
Ajamu, Jackson, and Bridgeman were quickly sentenced to death. When Ohio rid itself of the death penalty in the late 1970s, their sentences were reduced. Ajamu and Bridgeman would later be paroled, but Jackson remained behind bars for 39 years before all of their sentences were vacated. It’s reported that to date, it’s the longest an American inmate has spent in prison who was later exonerated.
The $18 million will be split among the three as such: Jackson will take 40 percent while Ajamu and Bridgeman will split the remainder 50-50. “Money cannot buy freedom and money certainly does not make innocence,” Ajamu reportedly stated. He added that they all agreed to the $18 million settlement after filing a civil rights lawsuit because “we now know that you have no other reason and no other recourse but to tell the world that you wronged three little black boys 45 years ago.”
This is one of but many cases that plague the Cleveland Police Department who have been accused of misconduct for decades.