3 wrongly convicted Cleveland men reach settlement with city
CLEVELAND — Three Cleveland men wrongly convicted of murder and then sentenced to more than 100 years in prison are being awarded $18 million by the city of Cleveland in a combined settlement.
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 when they were wrongly convicted of the robbery and murder of Harold Franks outside a Cleveland supermarket in 1975.
According to Friedman and Gilbert, the law firm representing two of the men, the settlement is the largest ever awarded for police misconduct in Ohio.
During a news conference Friday morning, Ajamu said, “I want to say to the city of Cleveland, ‘Yes, we accept that settlement. I want you to know that this settlement has been accepted because we have your confirmation that you have wronged us.”
Her conviction was based on the testimony of 12-year-old Edward Vernon.
Nearly forty years later, Vernon came forward and said officers from the Cleveland Police Department forced him to give false testimony at the trial.
All three men were sentenced to death. Their sentences were later commuted to life imprisonment.
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 is a challenge in this organization now that you are moving forward with the right agility towards equality and justice,” he said.
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“This lawsuit and settlement exposes the egregious misconduct of the police in resolving the case, fabricating false evidence, withholding evidence of innocence, and then forcing Vernon to lie on the witness stand in court,” the firm said in the release. “The settlement also marks the city of Cleveland’s failure to oversee and train rank and file police during the 1970s, which is reflected in the department’s widespread culture of racist policing and unpunished misconduct.
News 5 has reached out to the city of Cleveland about the settlement. A spokesman said there was “no comment” at this time.
The men were also awarded millions of dollars by the Ohio Court of Claims.
Legal troubles continue for Wiley Bridgeman. In 2019, he was charged with a fatal hit jump in University Heights involving construction workers.
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