After 39 years in prison for a crime he did not commit, Ricky Jackson became a free man last November after a judge threw out his conviction for a 1975 murder at a Cleveland grocery store. The conviction was based on a lie told by a 12 year-old boy who was under pressure by police to say he witnessed the crime. Eddie Vernon, the boy who is now grow up, recanted his testimony, which freed Jackson and two other men who were also convicted and imprisoned.
In light of Vernon’s recantation, the state withdrew their case. The hearing ended on a Tuesday. That Friday, 39 years, 5 months, and 27 days after his arrest, Jackson walked out of the courtroom unshackled, making him the longest-serving wrongfully convicted person in American history. Amazingly, Jackson was not revengeful nor vindictive, but forgiving.
When asked by the press what he thought about the man whose false testimony put him behind bars, Jackson said: “Even when I was in prison I feel like I had a better life,” he says. “He couldn’t have a life. He had three ghosts following him around. Despite what people say, without him, we’d still be in prison. He’s the one who put us there, and he was the one who eventually got us out. All is forgiven in my book.”
“People have to remember that they see him as a grown man today, but in ’75 he was a 12 yr. old kid and he was manipulated and coerced by the police and they used him; they used him to get us in prison. So, as far as that young man is concerned, I wish him the best. I don’t hate him; I just wish he has a good life. It took a lot of courage to do what he did in that courtroom that set us free. He’s been carrying a burden around for 39 years, like we have, but in the end he came through, and I’m grateful for that.”
Read the amazing details of Ricky Jackson’s life and the unbelievable circumstances surrounding his more than 14,000 days and nights behind bars and his eventual freedom:
After 39 years in prison, an epic tale of innocence found and bitterness lost
The Christian Science Monitor, April 12, 2015.
Man Wrongfully Imprisoned for 39 Years Forgives the Man Who Put Him There (video)
Aleteia, a worldwide network sharing faith resources for the world’s 3.2 billion Catholics and Christians, April 1, 2015.