Oxygen Insider Exclusive!

Create a free profile to get unlimited access to exclusive videos, breaking news, sweepstakes, and more!

Sign Up for Free to View
Crime News Breaking News

Ohio Judge Rules Cleveland Man Wrongfully Imprisoned For Nearly 30 Years

Charles Jackson's eyes filled with tears as an Ohio judge declared that he'd spent 28 years behind bars for a murder he didn't commit.

By Constance Johnson
Gavel Crime Story

An Ohio Judge ruled that a Cleveland man who spent nearly 30 years behind bars before his murder conviction was dismissed in 2019 was wrongfully imprisoned all along.

Charles Jackson has always vehemently denied committing the murder and the attempted murder for which he was convicted, and the ruling paves the way for him to seek monetary compensation from the state. If he wins, the law for wrongful convictions would provide him with about $52,000 for every year he spent in prison, according to Cleveland.com.

His eyes filled with tears as Common Pleas Judge Kathleen Sutula announced her decision at a hearing on Monday, according to WEWS.

“I don’t think there is any judge that would ever want to imprison an innocent person,” Sutula told Charles Jackson, according to WEWS. “Since [the judge that presided over Jackson’s 1991 conviction] is not here to say he’s sorry, I’ll say it for him.”

“I’m relieved. All these years to be labeled as a monster and to live through that and to feel shame and humiliation and now to be totally exonerated, it feels good,” Jackson said according to WEWS. “I don’t think [the state] could ever make it right. But compensation is a good start immediately to get my life going and to take care of my family and to move on and put this behind me.”

“I was 27 when I went to jail when I came home, I was 54 and my daughter was 27 so I was gone a long time,” Jackson said according to WOIO.

The Ohio Attorney General and Jackson’s lawyers (from the firm Friedman, Gilbert and Gerhardstein) also filed a joint motion on Monday that he was wrongfully imprisoned, according to multiple media reports.

“The investigation that led to the wrongful conviction of Charles Jackson was riddled with misconduct," his attorney Jacqueline Greene said, according to WOIO. "His life was stolen from him. Today is a day he has been fighting to see for decades, and it is imperative that our legal system and our community recognize the immense loss and suffering he has survived to stand here."

In 1991, Jackson was charged with the murder of Joe Travis and the attempted murder of Ronald Lacey, based on statements from Lacey and a woman who allegedly sold drugs out of the apartment building where the shooting occurred, according to Cleveland.com citing court documents.

It was the only evidence against him. But, they both testified at his trial and Jackson was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

In 2016, the Innocence Project requested a copy of Jackson’s case file from the Cuyahoga County Prosecutors Office. Most of the material they received was redacted, according to Cleveland.com.

The group also requested documents from the police, which they received in 2017. They discovered that the female witness initially told investigators that she could not identify the shooter and had not seen the shooting.

Detectives reportedly showed Lacey two photographs of Jackson, one of which was taken by different detectives several years earlier with their own 35mm camera.

Jackson’s attorneys said the reports also proved that William Nolan — one of the detectives on the case — lied and fabricated evidence when he testified at a pre-trial hearing.

Nolan said on the stand that he and another detective on the case showed Lacey a full photo lineup of Jackson, including other possible suspects, and Lacey selected Jackson.

The judge stopped the hearing because the photos Nolan allegedly used were not available, but allowed him to return to the stand the following day with photographs of five different people, according court records reviewed by Cleveland.com.

The records also revealed that another possible witness, Thomas Salvano, to the murder signed an affidavit that detectives tried to pressure him to testify against Jackson, though he told detectives that Jackson was not the shooter.

That report was never made available to prosecutors or Jackson’s attorneys before the trial, according to Cleveland.com.

Sulula ordered a new trial for Jackson in November of 2018. Jackson was then released from prison for the first time in 28 years.

One year later, the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor dropped all the charges against Jackson.

Jackson filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against multiple parties — including the city of Cleveland, the police detectives who investigated his case and an assistant Cuyahoga County prosecutor — last year.

He now works in Northern Ohio helping other men wrongly convicted adjust to freedom, according to Cleveland.com.

“They mess your whole life up, your family’s lives, and then it takes a long time to get yourself together,” he told Cleveland.com.  “They should be more compassionate to how we feel because we’re the victims, as well.”

He plans to take his family on vacation to Disneyland once he receives his compensation from the state.

Read more about: