CINCINNATI – Two brothers exonerated after spending decades in prison on a conviction and death sentences in a 1975 slaying have been initially awarded more than $1.6 million in compensation from the state of Ohio for wrongful imprisonment.
The Ohio Court of Claims on Friday granted that amount to Wiley Bridgeman, 60, and Kwame Ajamu, 57, and the brothers' attorneys said compensation for lost wages has yet to be determined and awarded.
Bridgeman, Ajamu, and Ricky Jackson were sent to death row after aggravated murder convictions in the slaying of Cleveland businessman Harry Franks. Their sentences were later commuted to life in prison.
Last year, the three men were exonerated after the case against them fell apart when the prosecution's key witness — then a 13-year-old boy — recanted his testimony as an adult.
Jackson, 58, was awarded more than $1 million in compensation in March.
Terry Gilbert and David Mills, attorneys for Bridgeman and Ajamu, said Friday the amount in lost wages will be determined through negotiations. Mills said Ohio law allows wrongfully imprisoned individuals to be paid about $51,000 for each year of incarceration. The $1.6 million includes calculated damages amounting to about $969,000 for Bridgeman and $647,000 for Ajamu, according to the court.
Gilbert said no amount of money could really compensate the two men for the time that was taken from them.
"They deserve a lot more, but the state has limits on what they pay," Gilbert said. "But obviously they are grateful to have some resources to start their lives again."
Ajamu, known in 1975 as Ronnie Bridgeman, was released in 2003 after 27 years in prison. Wiley Bridgeman and Jackson were released in November after nearly 40 years behind bars.
Dan Tierney, a spokesman for Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, was reached after office hours Friday. He said attorneys with DeWine's office would review the ruling Monday.