The University of Cincinnati Foundation

The University of Cincinnati Foundation
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Private Donations Enable UC’s Ohio Innocence Project to Free Longest-Incarcerated Exoneree

Ricky Jackson speak to members of the media

UC donors provide support for OIP to hire investigators that helped free Ricky Jackson

CINCINNATI – November 20, 2014 – After serving nearly 40 years in prison for a crime he did not commit, Ricky Jackson of Cleveland, Ohio will be on freed Friday, November 21, 2014 thanks to the work of the privately-supported Ohio Innocence Project (OIP) at the University of Cincinnati’s Lois and Richard Rosenthal Institute for Justice at the College of Law.

Through the generosity of UC donors, the OIP harnesses the energy and intellect of UC law students and seeks to identify inmates in Ohio prisons who are actually innocent of the crimes they were convicted of committing. Innocence is often determined by DNA testing, but can include other types of new evidence such as new witnesses, new expert testimony or evidence of police misconduct.

Jackson is the 18th person freed by the OIP since its 2003 inception. In that time, more than 600 donors have contributed more than $5.2 million toward its efforts.

“Fundraising efforts on behalf of the OIP have played a huge part in this case,” said Mark Godsey, OIP director. “Over the last 18 months in particular, we were able to get the funds needed to hire private investigators who went door-to-door interviewing potential witnesses.”

In 1975, Jackson and Wiley and Ronnie Bridgeman were convicted of killing a money-order collector at a Cleveland grocery store. The conviction was based on the testimony of a 12-year-old boy, Eddie Vernon, who said he had witnessed the shooting. This week, Vernon told Judge Richard McMonagle that he had lied to police.

“The Ohio Innocence Project continues to transform the lives of both its exonerees and of those who work so passionately for its mission,” said Santa J. Ono, UC president. “I am proud of our UC faculty, staff and students who work tirelessly for the innocent in the pursuit of justice. I understand that students played an important role in Jackson’s case, and I continue to be inspired by their efforts and am so thankful to the donors who support this program.”

OIP attorney Brian Howe, a 2010 graduate from the UC College of Law, investigated and litigated the case. He conducted an exhaustive investigation that included finding new witnesses for the 40-year-old case by knocking on random doors in the neighborhood and interviewing the occupants. OIP administrators and student fellows also played a key role.

“UC students involved in OIP worked relentlessly to obtain public records from the City of Cleveland, which would prove to be vital information that would eventually break open the case,” Godsey said.

Jackson is scheduled to be released from Cuyahoga County Courthouse after his hearing on Friday, November 21 promptly at 9:00 a.m.

“Thank you to everyone who has supported the Ohio Innocence Project over the years,” said Rodney Grabowski, UC Foundation president. “Your dollars have literally helped 18 individuals get their lives back, and the UC community is forever grateful for your commitment to helping the innocent.”

Those wishing to support OIP to help continue its work to free the innocent can do so at uc.edu/give.

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About the University of Cincinnati College of Law
As the fourth oldest continuously operating law school in the country, UC’s College of Law has a rich history of educating and inspiring leaders who pursue justice and advance the role of law in society. Its ranks include many distinguished alumni including a U.S. president, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and six governors. The college cultivates an intimate learning experience with a 10:1 student to faculty ratio and offers a wealth of resources such as more than 40 student organizations, five journals and seven centers and institutes. For more information, please visit law.uc.edu.

About the Ohio Innocence Project
The Ohio Innocence Project is part of the University of Cincinnati’s Lois and Richard Rosenthal Institute for Justice at the College of Law. Founded in 2003, it exists to identify and free the wrongfully convicted in Ohio’s prisons by harnessing the energy and intellect of law students. Innocence is often determined by DNA testing, but can include other types of new evidence such as new witnesses, new expert testimony, or evidence of police misconduct. Once an inmate's innocence has been established through investigation, the OIP sends the case back to court and litigates in the hope of obtaining the inmate's freedom. To date, the OIP has helped 18 individuals obtain their long-sought freedom. For more information, please visit law.uc.edu/oip.

About the University of Cincinnati Foundation                                  
Established in 1975, the University of Cincinnati Foundation is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation and is the private sector fundraising entity for the University of Cincinnati. The foundation supports UC’s aspirations through philanthropic collaboration with the colleges, the Academic Health Center and other units to maximize private support. The foundation’s advancement efforts promote the development of productive, enduring relationships with alumni, friends, colleagues, students, foundations, corporations and the Greater Cincinnati community. For more information, please visit uc.edu/foundation.