57-year-old Ricky Jackson has spent nearly four decades in jail for murder charges. On Friday, he will walk away from prison not just as a free man but somebody exonerated from the crime he was convicted of in 1975.
39 years ago, Jackson and his two friends, brothers Wiley and Ronnie Bridgeman, were charged of attacking and killing money-order collector Harold Franks outside of a Cleveland grocery store.
Franks was beaten, shot and thrown with acid on his face as he walked near the grocery store. One of the two attackers shot him twice using a .38-caliber handgun and fired a round that also hit the wife of the grocery store's owner. The men then stole the briefcase Franks was carrying and fled to a waiting car.
Although there were no physical evidences that point at Jackson or his friends to be the perpetrators of the crime, the prosecutors relied on the testimony of Edward Vernon, who at the time was just 12 years old. It turned out; however, that Vernon's testaments were a lie.
This week, Vernon, who decided to recant his story after speaking with a pastor, told a Cleveland judge that he was trying to please other people when he testified which led to the conviction of Jackson and his friends.
Vernon testified that at the time of the crime, he was on a bus with other school children but the bus was not near the vicinity where he would be able to see anything taking place. Others who were on the bus with him also testified that Vernon could not see anything but Vernon told the police that Jackson and the Bridgeman brothers were responsible for attacking and killing Franks.
Once he had told the authorities the names of Jackson and the Bridgeman brother and said that he had seen the slaying, Vernon said that the police started to provide him with information about the crime, which led to the conviction.
"All the information was fed to me," said Vernon. "I don't have any knowledge about what happened at the scene of the crime."
Ronnie Bridgeman was imprisoned for over 25 years and while Jackson is expected to be released soon, Wiley Bridgeman is still in jail.
As to why he hid the lies for a long time, Vernon said that the detectives have told him that if he speaks about what he did, his parents would be put in prison for perjury.