Ricky Jackson, 57, is expected to be released today after his life sentence for the 1975 murder of a money-order collector at a grocery store in Cleveland, Ohio, was overturned, cleveland.comreports.
The key witness in Mr Jackson’s conviction, who was then a 12-year-old boy, has spectacularly recanted his testimony, revealing that he made his evidence up.
“Everything was a lie. They were all lies,” Eddie Vernon, now 53, told a Cleveland court this week.
In 1975, Mr Vernon told police that he saw the Mr Jackson and two brothers, Wiley and Ronnie Bridgeman, kill the money-order collector, Harold Franks.
Police accused the men of attacking Mr Franks by beating him, throwing acid in his face and shooting him twice.
Mr Vernon’s web of lies came undone when Mr Vernon confessed to his pastor that he was on a school bus at the time of the murder and didn’t see anything. He did, however, hear two pops that sounded like firecrackers.
Mr Vernon identified the three men based on what a friend had told him.
He told the court this week that he lied to the police because he thought he was “doing the right thing”.
“I told the officer, ‘I know who did it’,” Mr Vernon said.
Mr Vernon accused Cleveland police of feeding him information and threatening to place his parents in prison for perjury if he didn’t stick to his story.
“All the information was fed to me,” Mr Vernon said.
“I don’t have any knowledge about what happened at the scene of the crime.”
There was no other evidence that implicated the trio to the murder, cleveland.comreports, but all three were sentenced to death. However, the death sentence was revoked in Ohio in 1978, so their sentences were changed to life in jail.
Mr Jackson is the longest-held prisoner to be exonerated in the US, according toReuters.
“I can’t believe this is over,” Mr Jackson sobbed when he heard the news.
“I’m coming home. I’m coming home.
“I didn’t expect this to happen. I really didn’t.”
The other man convicted of the crime Ronnie Bridgeman was let out of jail after 25 years, and lawyers are expected to bid for the release of his brother, Wiley, after Mr Vernon’s new evidence.