A 56-year-old Ohio man who spent 27 years in prison for a crime he didn t commit had all charges dropped against him yesterday.
Kwame Ajamu, his brother Wiley Bridgeman, 60, and Ricky Jackson, 57, were convicted in 1975 of the gruesome murder and robbery of a businessman outside a corner storm in Cleveland and sent to death row – all because of the testimony of one 12-year-old boy.
“I’m so happy today that this battle has come to an end,” said Ajamu, formerly known as Ronnie Bridgeman, reports Reuters.
Cuyahoga County Judge Pamela Barker stepped down from her bench to give Ajamu a hug, according to the Associated Press.
Ajamu was released on parole in 2003 but his brother and Jackson remained in jail until last month.
The court was told years ago that two people had attacked businessman Harold Franks with acid, and one of the people had shot him. A third person drove a getaway car.
The 12-year-old boy, Edward Vernon, now 53, claimed he saw Jackson and Ronnie Bridgeman attack Frank and then drive off in a car with Wiley.
It was only last year that he recanted his testimony.
“I’m thinking, ‘I’m doing the right thing,” Vernon testified last month. “I told the officer, ‘I know who did it.”
Vernon wrote in a 2013 affidavit that he never saw the murder take place, but was told by detectives that if he didn t testify against Jackson, his parents would be arrested, according to NBC News.
After the hearing, Ajamu said he hopes to meet Eddie Vernon one day so he can tell him he understands what happened and has no ill will toward him, according to the AP.
“It’s my hope going forward that we don’t have to wait another 40 years for the next Kwame Ajamu, Wiley Bridgeman, Ricky Jackson,” he said. “It’s my hope from this day on we can stop ignoring what is obvious in the criminal justice system and move forward with peace and love.”