Imprisoned by a lie; set free by the truth
CBS NewsJanuary 5, 2015, 7:28
CLEVELAND -- Nearly four weeks ago,
Ricky Jackson was exonerated after spending 39 years in prison -- serving
the longest sentence for a wrongful conviction in U.S history.
In 1975, on a street corner in Cleveland, Ohio, a money-order salesman was
robbed and shot to death as he left a neighborhood store.
Five days later, the police had three suspects in custody. One of them was
18-year-old Ricky Jackson, the alleged trigger-man.
A mugshot of Ricky Jackson after his arrest for a murder he did not commit.
Jackson was exonerated after 39 years behind bars.
"I can remember that day so vividly because that was the last day that I felt
like I was really alive," Jackson told me, with tears in his eyes.
In 1975, Jackson and two friends were sentenced to death.
"We were innocent, and they were about to murder us for something we didn't
do," Jackson said.
No physical evidence linked the men to the crime, but the police had an
eyewitness: a 12-year-old boy named Edward Vernon.
Young Vernon testified under oath that he saw Jackson pull the trigger, even
though he was several blocks away on a school bus when shots rang out.
In this 1975 photo, a crowd gathers at the corner store in Cleveland, Ohio
where the murder of a money-order salesman took place
The Plain Dealer
"They knew that I didn't see anything," Vernon told me, now 52-years-old.
"Everybody knew it was a lie."
I spoke to Vernon with his pastor at his side.
"All these years I've been holding this shame and guilt inside, wanting to
release it, wanting to come forward and do the right thing," said Vernon.
Vernon said he fingered Jackson because he knew him from the neighborhood and
was eager to help police. But after he failed to identify Jackson in a line-up,
he says the officers began to feed him information: the number of assailants,
the weapon used, and the make and model of the get-away car.
But Vernon told me he saw none of those things. He was simply repeating what the
police had told him, he said.
It was Young Vernon's testimony that put Jackson on death row.
"I could halfway accept my punishment if I was guilty," Jackson told me,
before breaking into tears.
Vernon eventually confided in his pastor Anthony Singleton.
"I said 'I'll be with you, I'll support you,'" Singleton said. "He just bust
out crying, it's like something just came out of him."
The Ohio Innocence Project asked for a new trial. Vernon took the stand in a
Cleveland courtroom and this time he told the truth.
It's been seven weeks since Jackson, now 57, walked out of court a free man
after his murder conviction was overturned. He's spent all of his adult life
Ricky Jackson is seen smiling moments after being exonerated for a murder he
did not commit
Today, Jackson is reclaiming his life -- studying for his driver's test and
signing up for a library card. But there was something else he needed to do:
forgive the man who put him behind bars. The emotional moment happened inside a
church where both men hugged one another.
"It took a lot of courage to do what you did," Jackson told Vernon. "Thank
"I'm sorry," sobbed Vernon.
"It's all right brother. We were both victims man. It's alright. I do forgive
you man. I wanted to be here personally to tell you that."
Vernon, who was so overcome with emotion he could barely speak, marveled at
Jackson's ability to forgive.
"Wow, how could this man hug and embrace me after all these years?" Vernon
Ricky Jackson hugs and forgives Edward Vernon, wearing glasses, for lying
about a murder that sent Jackson to prison for 39 years
Jackson told me, he didn't always feel this way about the man who put him
"For a lot of years I really hated him for what he did to
us," Jackson said. "But I knew I had to do this because I desperately want
to move forward with my life and the only way I can do that is to forgive
Two men imprisoned by a lie, set free by the truth.
© 2015 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Commentary by the Ottawa Mens Centre
Another classic example of just how easy it is for Police to fabricate
evidence and deny justice not to mention torture a man for 39 years.
This is a crime against the administration of Justice which in Ottawa is
encouraged and permitted by the Vile Scum of Humanity like
Dishonourable Timothy Minnema, Robert Maranger, Jennifer Belishen
just to name a view of the Criminals who habitually commit offences against
the administration of justice.
Checkout the wanted pages at
Ottawa Mens Centre