Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Court of Claims: Brothers Exonerated for Murder Granted Additional $4.38 Million for Wrongful Imprisonment

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

The state has agreed to pay two Cleveland brothers wrongfully imprisoned for 37 and 25 years an additional $4.38 million for their time behind bars, the Ohio Court of Claims ruled Monday.

The court agreed to a settlement with Wiley Bridgeman and Kwame Ajamu (formerly Ronnie Bridgeman), for the time spent in prison for a murder they did not commit. Bridgeman, Ajamu, 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, 2015, 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.

In April 2015, Court of Claims Judge Patrick McGrath issued a preliminary judgment that called 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 Terry H. Gilbert, an attorney representing the brothers, to establish an annuity account to pay for “damages for physical injury caused by wrongful imprisonment.”

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

The court found Bridgeman was incarcerated for 13,630 days and Ajamu for 9,108 days.

As part of the settlement, Bridgeman will receive about $2.4 million. The preliminary payment was based onĀ  half the days he served, 6,815. The final payment includes another $969,000 for the remaining 6,815 not included in last April’s payment. The bulk of the settlement includes $1.4 million related to lost wages while the remaining amount is for legal costs, attorney and expert witness fees.

Ajamu will receive about $1.98 million that includes $647,000 for the remaining 4,554 days he was not compensated for in last year’s payment, and $1.3 million for lost wages. The remaining amount is for his legal expenses.

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.

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