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3 Cleveland men wrongly convicted for a 1975 murder reach $18 million settlement with city

Posted at 11:02 AM, May 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-11 18:57:58-04

CLEVELAND — Three Cleveland men wrongfully convicted of murder and then sentenced to more than 100 years in prison will received $18 million in a combined settlement from the City of Cleveland.

Kwame Ajamu (formerly known as Ronnie Bridgeman) ,62, Wiley Bridgeman, 65, and Rickey Jackson, 63, were exonerated in 2014.

The men were just 17, 20 and 18 years old when they were wrongfully convicted of the robbery and murder of Harold Franks in 1975 outside a Cleveland convenience store.

According to Friedman and Gilbert, the law firm representing two of the men, the settlement is the largest awarded over police misconduct in Ohio.

During a news conference Friday morning, Ajamu said, "I want to say to the City of Cleveland, 'Yes, we accept this settlement. I want you to know that this settlement has been accepted because we have your acknowledgment that you have wronged us."

Their conviction rested on the testimony of 12-year-old, Edward Vernon.

Close to forty years later, Vernon came forward and said Cleveland police detectives coerced him to testify falsely at the trial.

All three of men were sentenced to death. Their sentences were later commuted to life in prison.

Ajamu was released on parole in 2003.

He said he hopes his story will lead to better policing in the City of Cleveland.

"We accept and hope that there’s a challenge in this organization now that you will go forward with the right agility towards equality and justice," he said.

RELATED: 6 prisoners exonerated in Cuy. Co. in 13 months

“This lawsuit and settlement expose the egregious misconduct by police who worked up the case, fabricated false evidence, withheld evidence of innocence, and then coerced Vernon into lying on the stand at trial,” said the firm in the release. “The settlement also marks the City of Cleveland’s failure to monitor and train rank and file police in the 1970s, reflected in the department’s widespread culture of racist policing and misconduct with impunity.

News 5 reached out to the City of Cleveland about the settlement. A spokesperson said they have "no comment at this time."

The men were also awarded million of dollars through the Ohio Court of Claims.

Legal troubles continue for Wiley Bridgeman. In 2019, he was charged for a fatal hit-skip in University Heights involving construction workers.

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