After nearly 40 years in prison, a man convicted in a 1975 Cleveland slaying has walked out of the county jail as a free man. Ricky Jackson, 57, was dismissed from the Cuyahoga County Jail and walked out of the adjoining courthouse this morning about an hour after a judge dismissed his case. The dismissal came after the key witness—then a 13-year-old boy—at trial against Jackson and brothers Wiley and Ronnie Bridgeman recanted last year and said Cleveland police detectives coerced him into testifying that the three killed businessman Harry Franks on the afternoon of May 19, 1975. About two hours later, Wiley Bridgeman was also dismissed; Ronnie Bridgeman, who now goes by the name Kwame Ajamu, got out on parole in 2003, NBC News reports.
"Finally, finally," Jackson said as he left the Cleveland Justice Center Complex, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports. Jackson, who was just 18 when he entered prison, offered gratitude toward the Ohio Innocence Project (which says that of all exonerated US prisoners, he spent the most time behind bars) and county prosecutors and absolved Eddie Vernon, the boy whose testimony helped put him away. "I don't hate him," he tells the Plain Dealer. "He's a grown man today, he was just a boy back then. It took a lot of courage to do what he did." Because when it comes down to it, he's just happy to finally be free. "The English language doesn't have the words to express how I'm feeling right now.''