Kwame Ajamu, Wiley Bridgeman, Rickey Jackson
Kwame Ajamu (formerly known as Ronnie Bridgeman), his brother, Wiley Bridgeman, and their friend, Rickey Jackson, together served over 100 years in prison for the 1975 killing a money-order collector at a Cleveland grocery store. The convictions were based on a lie by a then 12-year-old boy who later recanted his story but was coerced by police to testify at trial. All three men were convicted and sentenced to death but their lives were spared when the U.S. Supreme Court temporarily prohibited capital punishment by the decision in Furman v. Georgia, 408 U.S. 238 (1972). (Learn more about Furman via Oyez.)
Kwame served 28 years of his life sentence and was released in 2015. Wiley and Rickey were exonerated in 2014 after serving 39 years behind bars. At the time of his release, Rickey had served 39 years, three months and nine days—at that time the longest time in prison of any person exonerated in U.S. history.
OIP's exhaustive investigation included finding and gaining the trust of witnesses as well as pursuing the release of critical public records. But this case is a shining example of the power of journalists, who are some of the strongest allies to innocence organization. One example of the incredible service that journalists provide is the work of Kyle Swenson, now a reporter with the Washington Post. Kyle’s book, Good Kids, Bad City provides an in-depth analysis of this case. You can also read Kyle’s stories in The Scene, a Cleveland paper, including Good Kids, Bad City: After 39 Years of Wrongful Incarceration, Ricky Jackson and the Bridgeman Brothers Walk Free.
Rickey and his wife Clarissa are the proud parents of a beautiful baby girl, Lovely Rose, and live in Northeast Ohio.
Kwame and his wife live in Ohio. He continues to educate others about wrongful conviction and to advocate for the abolition of the death penalty through Witness to Innocence, a national organization that has welcomed Kwame to its Board.
Wiley passed away in June 2021.
To learn more about Rickey’s case, visit the National Registry of Exonerations. To learn more about Kwame’s case. And learn more about Wiley’s case.
Despite cases like this one, Ohio continues to be a death penalty state. At least twelve people on Ohio’s death row have been exonerated. OIP continues to represent clients who have been sentenced to death in Ohio’s courts. OIP’s legislative advocacy campaigns include support for the abolition of the death penalty in Ohio. You can learn more about those efforts through organizations like Ohioans to Stop Executions.
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