The Patriotic Path To Justice

Today I’ve been reading about the NFL players and owners meeting discussing proper procedures for the national anthem.  I don’t want to get into that specific subject, but as a military veteran, I do have definite thoughts about patriotism.

Realizing that this nation has its problems, I believe patriotism includes calling attention to those problems and trying to deal with them.  This includes fostering and maintaining respect for the law.

The truth is, our legal system makes mistakes.  Lots of mistakes.   So making our legal system as efficient, accurate, and fair as possible is a wonderful way to strengthen this country.  And this certainly includes working within the system to correct these mistakes.

Cincinnati, OH—“I … was sentenced to death by electrocution for a crime I didn’t commit,” said Ricky Jackson, testifying on the witness stand Tuesday, November 18, 2014, about spending nearly 40 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Jackson was exonerated that day, due to the relentless hard work of the Ohio Innocence Project (OIP). He has the tragic distinction of setting the record for the longest-serving person to be exonerated in U.S. history; Jackson and co-defendants Wiley and Ronnie Bridgeman, together served over 100 years in prison.

Jackson will be freed officially on Friday, November 21, 2014. Terry Gilbert and David Mills, attorneys for the Bridgemans, are expected to ask the Cuyahoga County prosecutors to drop the case against the brothers. One of the Bridgeman brothers is still behind bars.

In 1975 Jackson and the Bridgeman brothers were convicted of killing a money-order collector at a Cleveland grocery store. All three received the death penalty and came close to execution. It is now known that the convictions were based on a lie by a then 12-year-old boy Eddie Vernon, who helped build the case against them. Vernon recently recanted his story. As reported in The Cleveland Plain Dealer article, Vernon, this week, told Judge Richard McMonagle, Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court, that he lied to the police, prosecutors and juries when he was a boy. He shared that all of the information was fed to him by the police. He didn’t have any knowledge about what happened at the scene of the crime; in fact, he had been on a bus with several school friends at the time of the incident and did not see anything transpire.

In The Cleveland Plain Dealer article Vernon shared that he hid the lies for years, saying the detectives told him that if he mentioned what he did, they would put his parents in prison for perjury.

Copied from a University of Cincinnati College of Law press release (; the photo is from that site).

This case is a good example of what can go wrong in our legal system.  Fortunately, there is an alternative — the Ohio Innocence Project at the University of Cincinnati College of Law’s Rosenthal Institute for Justice.   Founded in 2003, the OIP to date has helped 23 individuals obtain their freedom.  (This is not a unique program — so far, innocence projects across the country have freed more than 250 wrongfully convicted individuals.)  In my opinion, this is an absolutely critical initiative if we are to have confidence in our legal system.  And they need money to continue this vital work.  (I’m sure you saw this part coming.)  So this has become one of my favorite charities.

It’s a patriotic thing to do.

For more information on the Ohio Innocence Project, visit .  Or find a similar project closer to your home to support.


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