Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Court of Claims: Brothers Exonerated for Murder Granted $1.6 Million for Wrongful Imprisonment

Kwame Ajamu, et al vv. State of Ohio, Case. No. 2015-00149

Two Cleveland brothers wrongfully imprisoned for 37 and 25 years will initially receive just more than $1.6 million from the state for their time behind bars, the Ohio Court of Claims ruled Friday.

The court granted partial judgment to Wiley Bridgeman and Kwame Ajamu (formerly Ronnie Bridgeman), for the time spent in prison for a murder they did not commit. Bridgeman, 60, Ajamu, 57, and Ricky Jackson had their death sentences commuted while in prison, and their convictions were overturned in late 2014 after the key witness in the case against them recanted his story.

Bridgeman, Ajamu and Jackson were convicted of the 1975 murder of Harold Franks and maintained their innocence throughout their incarceration. Eddie Vernon, who was 12 at the time of the murder, revealed to a Cleveland newspaper in 2012 that he had lied about the three men’s involvement in the murder because he wanted to help the police.

On Feb. 12, a Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court ruled that the three established they were wrongfully imprisoned, and Cuyahoga County Prosecuting Attorney Timothy McGinty did not appeal the ruling.

Bridgeman was released from prison in 2002 but was later returned for a parole violation. Ajamu was released on parole in 2003.

The two presented the appropriate certification of their wrongful imprisonment to the Court of Claims on Feb. 27. During a status conference Thursday, Judge McGrath said the state and the attorney for the two men, Terry H. Gilbert, verified the number of wrongfully incarcerated days. The court found Bridgeman was incarcerated for 13,630 days and Ajamu for 9,108 days.

Judge McGrath issued a preliminary judgment that calls for the payment of 50 percent of the calculated damages, which amounted to about $969,000 for Bridgeman and $647,000 to Ajamu, and directed the money be sent to Gilbert to establish an annuity account to pay for “damages for physical injury caused by wrongful imprisonment.”

The Court of Claims is given original jurisdiction to hear and determine all civil actions filed against the state of Ohio and its agencies.

To access information on other cases visit the Court of Claims website.

Please note: Opinion summaries are prepared by the Office of Public Information for the general public and news media. Opinion summaries are not prepared for every opinion, but only for noteworthy cases. Opinion summaries are not to be considered as official headnotes or syllabi of court opinions. The full text of this and other court opinions are available online.