CLEVELAND (AP) — Three men who spent decades locked up for a 1975 killing they did not commit will receive a combined $18 million from the city of Cleveland.
The city’s settlement agreement Wednesday with Rickey Jackson, Wiley Bridgeman and his brother Kwame Ajamu is believed to be the largest reached in the state of Ohio in a police misconduct case, Jackson’s attorneys said in a press release Friday.
The men, now in their 60s, have maintained their innocence, saying they were victims of a police department that would do anything to close a case, even at the expense of innocent black men.
They were convicted of murder in 1975 in the shooting death of Harold Franks. They were cleared of the crime in 2014.
Jackson served 39 years in prison and was believed at the time to have served the longest time in prison of anyone wrongfully convicted of a crime.
During a video conference Friday, Ajamu cried when he said that they were accepting the settlement but that “money cannot buy freedom and money certainly does not make innocence.”
He also said that settlement is a way for the system to acknowledge that it “wronged three little black boys 45 years ago.”
The three men will divide the settlement so that Jackson receives 40% and Bridgeman and Ajamu split the rest, Jackson’s lawyer Elizabeth Wang told Cleveland.com.
Jackson, who is now married with a child on the way, is optimistic about his future, but there is no undoing what he endured, Wang said.
“What is 39 years of your life worth?” she said. “Nobody can put a number on that. No amount of money that can compensate them for what they went through.”
City officials aren’t commenting on the settlement, WEWS-TV reported.