CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - A Cleveland man is free, after spending 39 years behind bars for being wrongfully accused of a 1975 murder.
Ricky Jackson is the 18th exoneree University of Cincinnati's law school has helped reclaim freedom through a program called Ohio Innocence Project (OIP). The program was founded in 2003 by OIP director, Mark Godsey, and Cincinnati's Mayor, John Cranley.
"All justice services run by human beings are going to be imperfect. And we have to admit that those systems are imperfect," Cranley said during a congratulatory engagement for Jackson at UC on Tuesday afternoon.
In 1975, Jackson and two of his friends were accused of killing a man and shooting another while robbing a neighborhood store.
Inside UC's Baur Room at the Corbett Center for the Performing Arts Jackson answered questions about his captivity and what's next for him.
"What was your first meal after you got out?" a student asked.
"Red Lobster," Jackson said. He continued, "It didn't really matter what I ate, as long as it wasn't prison food."
For being behind bars for 39 years for something Jackson was wrongfully accused of he is rather humble. He wants to meet his accuser to appropriately forgive him.
Since he was released on Friday he has been exploring, catching up on the years he's been behind bars, unable to see the progression of society.
"It looks like I am in a foreign city because I don't recognize anything. Besides the street numbers and names, it's just amazing," he said.
More than anything, Jackson is grateful for the people at UC who have worked for years on his case. A type of case, few practicing lawyers ever get to work on, let alone students.
"It's been unbelievable. It's very rewarding. The work we do is very difficult, a lot of dead-ends, and just seeing something so great, it's just been unbelievable," said Gabrielle Carrier, a second year law student at UC, who has been working on Jackson's case since May. She says the case is giving her the strength to continue her law studies.
Jackson is currently staying in a hotel. A fund at UC has raised more than $40,000 to give to Jackson to start his life outside of prison, since he has spent the years that would have been spent learning a trade locked up.