Three men imprisoned for nearly 40 years thanks to a teenager's lie
Eddie Vernon's false verdict 39 years ago, put three men in death rowReuters

Kwame Ajamu, his brother Wiley Bridgeman and friend Ricky Jackson were all convicted in 1975 for the murder of one Herman Franks, a businessman, based on the testimony of the only witness, a 13-year-old boy. Now, 39 years later, he has recanted his testimony, setting them free.

Ajamu, who was then known as Ronnie Bridgeman, was a mere 17, Ricky Jackson, 19 and his brother Wiley Bridgeman just 20 when they were sent to death row. On Tuesday, Jackson called Ajamu from the very same Cleveland courtroom in which Eddie Vernon, who as a teenager testified against the men, recanted his statement.

With Vernon retracting his earlier testimony, the Cuyahoga County prosecutors no longer have a case and have filed a motion to dismiss charges against the three men.

"It just blew my mind!" Huffington Post quoted Ajamu as saying. He finds the prospect of the three of them being together "mind boggling".

Ajamu had gotten out of prison in January 2003, while Jackson is placed in a county jail and Bridgeman is at a Northwest Ohio prison. If there are no hassles with transportation, Bridgeman can reach Cleveland and the trio could be reunited by 22 November.

Ajamu's biggest regret is that his mother passed away before she could see the three of them breathing the fresh air of freedom. He said: "I had to relive in my mind and heart my mother walking down the street the last few days of her life with that shame. She knew we didn't do it, but the world didn't."

He says he is unable to forget the judge sentencing him to the electric chair for a crime he did not commit. Ajamu, who spent many monumental birthdays on death row, has outlived a brother, sister and his mother, who all died while he was in prison.

Their sentences were altered to life in prison after the death penalty was struck down by the US Supreme Court in 1978, just two weeks before his brother was to face the electric chair.

According to reports, Vernon was compelled by detectives to implicate the three men after he repeated some gossip to a police officer. However, despite spending 27 years in prison for a crime he did not commit, Ajamu says he forgave Vernon years ago, as he knew such a young boy could not have made up the story on his own.

Choosing to remain positive, he reiterates, "There's always a story worse than mine".