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Ohio Man Ricky Jackson, Exonerated After 39 Years in Prison, Sues Police

Ricky Jackson, 58, was freed last November for his wrongful conviction in the 1975 death of a money order salesman. He is suing police in the case.

An Ohio man exonerated last fall after nearly four decades in prison for a murder he didn't commit is suing Cleveland police for their role in putting him away.

Ricky Jackson, in a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday, names the city and at least eight former officers or their estates for his arrest and incarceration following a 1975 Cleveland-area slaying.

"It was the misconduct by Cleveland police detectives and those working in concert with them that led to Mr. Jackson's wrongful conviction," according to the suit in U.S.District Court for the Northern District of Ohio.

Jackson was 18 when he was first locked up, and is now 58. With 39 years in prison, he's believed to have served the longest time behind bars for someone wrongly incarcerated in the United States, according to the National Registry of Exonerations. He had been sentenced to life after Ohio declared the death penalty unconstitutional in 1978 before reinstating it three years later.

Jackson and two other co-defendants who were also wrongly convicted in the case were freed after a key witness, Edward Vernon, recanted his testimony two years ago claiming the trio shot and robbed money order salesman Harold Franks. Vernon, who was 12 at the time of the shooting, said he had been coerced by detectives.

"His statement implicating Mr. Jackson was a complete fabrication created by the detectives," the lawsuit alleges.

The suit doesn't specify an amount in monetary damages that Jackson is seeking, but requests a jury trial. He has already received about $1 million of a $2 million compensation award from the Ohio Court of Claims for his wrongful imprisonment.

Three of the detectives and one sergeant named in Jackson's lawsuit have died in the years since his arrest. A spokesman for the city of Cleveland told NBC News that officials aren't commenting on pending litigation.

Image: Ricky Jackson
Ricky Jackson, 58, of Cleveland, center, with lawyers Mark Godsey, left, and Brian Howe, looks skyward after being released from his life sentence for a 1975 murder on Nov. 20, 2014 in Cleveland.Phil Long / AP


— Erik Ortiz