Ricky Jackson was sent to prison for a murder that he did not commit. After spending 39 years in prison, he holds the record for longest sentence served by someone proven to be innocent, also known as wrongful imprisonment.
At age 18 Ricky’s life was turned upside down. After being dishonourably discharged for back problems from the Marines, he returned home to Cleveland’s East Side. Not long after he returned, he was arrested, alongside his two friends, after a man was killed outside a local convenience store. Harold Franks, who had been selling money orders, was splashed in the face with acid, before being shot, clubbed to death and robbed.
Both Ricky and his friends all denied the charges, pleading with the courts that they were never at the scene, they had never even laid eyes on the victim. Detectives at the time, managed to get a witness statement out of a 12 year old boy, who places the 3 boys at the scene. The thing was, 2 of his classmates told the police that he was nowhere near the scene, and he could not pick the suspects out of a police line up.
Even with this shaky statement, in the year of 1975, the 3 were found guilty and sentenced to death by electric chair.
After spending 2 years in a death row cell, with no windows except from a narrow slit, Ricky and his friends caught a break. Their death sentence was reduced to life, and they were allowed to enter the normal population of the prison. Not a big win, but a win, nonetheless.
Ricky, who was just a kid when he entered prison, says he had to become the bad guy that everyone thought he was whilst in prison. He had to fight other inmates and spent months in solitary. He never gave up however.
He started refereeing basketball games, he spent hour after hour in the prison library and he wrote letters. Letters to anyone who would listen to his pleads about his case. One of these letters ended up with a pastor who listened to Ricky’s story. He then took it to the Ohio Innocence Project. Their lawyers managed to get Eddie Vernon to rescind his testimony, he told the judge that the cops had bullied him at age 12 into blaming Jackson and his friends.
In 2014, prosecutors absolved all three men of all charges. After nearly 40 years in prison, and after passing up several chances at early release for admitting he committed a crime he didn’t commit, Ricky Jackson walked free.
The three even met up with Eddie Vernon when they were released, Eddie apologized to the three. Ricky says he forgives him, he was a kid that told a massive lie, but a kid all the less. Ricky puts the blame on the lawyers and the police who framed him.
After being awarded 1 million dollars in compensation, he now lives in a house he has bought with his fiancé, trying to get used to his rebirth as he calls it.