CLEVELAND, Ohio — Wiley Bridgeman walked out of jail after 39 years and into the waiting arms of his brother Friday.
In a story of tragedy and triumph – and an almost unbelievable injustice – the two brothers reunited after spending decades in prison – some of the time on death row – for a murder they did not commit.
“You don’t give up,” Wiley says, “and anybody can take a fall…it’s always the ‘getting up’ that counts.”
Wiley and Ronnie Bridgeman, along with Ricky Jackson, were convicted on the testimony of a witness who was 12 years old in 1975 at the time of the murder. That witness, Edward Vernon, has since recanted, saying he was pressured by police into making the identifications.
Ronnie was paroled back in 2003, but Wiley and Jackson stayed in jail until Friday morning.
Wiley is now 60 years old, and plans on writing and maybe looking for a job.
“The bitterness is over,” he says, “I’m at the end of that road.”
“It never ceases to amaze me,” says Terry Gilbert, Wiley’s attorney, “how these injustices could occur.”
Gilbert says he plans to look into filing a claim with the state, trying to get some compensation for Wiley for the nearly 40 years of his life he lost sitting in prison for a murder he did not