After 39 years, Jackson, now 57, was released on Tuesday when Cuyahoga County prosecutor Timothy McGinty told Judge Richard McMonagle that the case against Jackson had fallen apart. The prosecutors dismissed the case when Eddie Vernon, who was 12 when his lie helped convict Jackson in 1975, recanted his story.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer said Jackson “broke into loud sobs” and buried his face into his cuffed hands.
“I can’t believe this is over,” he cried.
Jackson told The Plain Dealer that he didn’t expect to be exonerated. He thanked his attorneys from the Ohio Innocence Project, Brian Howe and Mark Godsey, and his team of supporters.
When he spoke to a family member over the phone Jackson said, “I’m coming home. I’m coming home. Be here to get me Friday, please. Let everybody know,” according to The Plain Dealer.
Jackson is expected to be released on Friday after his release paperwork is complete.
Vernon told McMonagle that he lied to police, prosecutors and juries about what he saw on May 19, 1975, in order to please others and help authorities. The lie landed Jackson and Wiley and Ronnie Bridgeman in prison.
Authorities said two men beat Harold Franks, the money-collector, threw acid in his face and shot him twice with a .38-caliber handgun. The shooter also hit Anna Robinson, the wife of the store owner, before stealing Franks’ car, according to The Plain Dealer.
Vernon, who was on a bus with other school children near the Fairmont Cut-Rite on Fairhill Road, now called Stokes Boulevard, was not close enough to see what happened, he testified.
“All the information was fed to me,” he said. “I don’t have any knowledge about what happened at the scene of the crime.”
Vernon said that detectives threatened to put his parents in prison for perjury if he mentioned that he lied, according to The Plain Dealer.
Vernon said he decided to admit lying after speaking last year with his pastor, Rev. Anthony Singleton of the Emmanuel Christian Center.
Vernon’s testimony at the hearing on Monday made prosecutors skeptical, but according to The Associated Press, they acknowledged that the case did not hold up.
Ronnie served 25 years in prison and his brother, Wiley, is still incarcerated. Their attorneys, Terry Gilbert and David Mills, have requested a new trial based on Vernon’s new testimony.