This week’s news that Cleveland, Ohio, authorities are blaming Tamir Rice—the 12-year-old boy gunned down late last year by police mistaking his toy gun for a real one—for his own death, has put the city’s police department under scrutiny yet again.
On November 21, 2014, just two days before Rice was fatally shot by police, three Cleveland men were exonerated after serving nearly 40 years on death row for a crime they did not commit. Ricky Jackson, Wiley Bridgeman, and Kwame Ajamu (formerly known as Ronnie Bridgeman, Wiley’s brother) were wrongfully convicted in 1975 for the murder of Harold Franks, a money order salesman who was attacked and killed outside a Cleveland convenience store.
Years of fighting the charges finally paid off when, with the help of the Ohio Innocence Project, the key eyewitness recanted his testimony.
The men, now 58, 60, and 57, respectively, are still looking for justice but are hopeful for the future. Jackson, just 18 when he was imprisoned, says he’s actually enjoying his life now. “I’m kind of digging this bachelor stuff right now. I got a nice little apartment, I’m […] just doing my thing, playing the kind of music I like, eating the kind of food I want to eat.”
Bridgeman says he, too, is moving on with this life, but it’s hard to forget the damage and pain they endured.
“We’ve been condemned by people, we’ve been placed by the justice system to be these characters […] how do they pay us back after they say, ‘we made a big mistake’?”
The three men sat down with Fusion’s Mariana Atencio for their first joint interview since being exonerated late last year. Watch as they open up about the first place they went after getting released, using cell phones, and what it means to finally be free.