Saturday, November 22, 2014

40 years in prison on coerced testimony

Man, this would be hard to take, wouldn't it? It's hard to even read about.
After nearly 40 years in prison, a man convicted in a 1975 Cleveland slaying has walked out of the county jail as a free man.

Fifty-seven-year-old Ricky Jackson was dismissed from the Cuyahoga (ky-uh-HOH'-guh) County jail and walked out of the adjoining courthouse Friday about an hour after a judge dismissed his case.

The dismissal came after the key witness against Jackson and brothers Wiley and Ronnie Bridgeman at trial, a 13-year-old boy, recanted last year and said Cleveland police detectives coerced him into testifying that the three killed businessman Harry Franks the afternoon of May 19, 1975.

This is the only life we've got. He missed his 20s, 30s, 40s, even most of his 50s locked up for a crime he apparently didn't do. Can you imagine?

Incidentally, this is the reason I oppose the death penalty - the only reason, in fact. I have no sympathy for violent criminals, and if the crime was bad enough, I'd pull the switch myself.

But we're not infallible, and we're never going to be infallible. Sometimes, we convict the wrong people.

One more thing: you might think that Jackson really did commit this murder, that the police knew what they were doing,... but how do you know that? In America, there's a presumption of innocence, you know.

And Jackson is a black man. Even today, let alone 40 years ago, black men face an automatic assumption of guilt from many people. "Well, he must be guilty of something," huh? Everywhere in our justice system, even today, there are racial disparities.

Unarmed black men routinely seem to be shot for no reason, too - sometimes by police. Accidents? Well, sure, sometimes. But do you think that race plays no part in 'accidents'? Or in cases like the Trayvon Martin incident where an unarmed black teenager, minding his own business, can be stalked and killed, and the police just shrug it off?

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