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Cleveland man who spent time behind bars from crime he didn't commit declared 'wrongfully imprisoned'

Charles Jackson missed 27 years of his life. Today in court, a judge said, "I'm sorry."

CLEVELAND — Charles Jackson was 27 years old when he was convicted of a murder and attempted murder he did not commit.

Though he was released in 2018, his wrongful imprisonment wasn't made official until now.

"During his imprisonment, it was determined by the Court of Common Pleas that the offense of which he was found guilty was found to be an error," said Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court, Judge Kathleen Ann Sutula. "Therefore, Mr. Jackson is a wrongfully imprisoned person."

That error cost Jackson 27 years of his life. He missed the birth of his daughter. Family members passed away. He'll never get those years back.

After the hearing, Judge Sutula called Jackson to her bench. It wasn't for business; she was heard telling him, "I'm sorry."

Monday's hearing allows Jackson's attorneys to pursue compensation for him. Jackson says, it's the first step in starting over.

"Compensation is a good start for me to get my life going...take care of my family, to move on and put this behind me," Jackson said. "I'm relieved, ya know? All these years labeled as a monster."

Though he said he wished the day had come sooner.

"When they find out they made a mistake, they shouldn't take so long in the process of compensation and getting people's lives back in order," Jackson said. 

His attorneys are also pursuing a civil rights case in federal court.

"So this was the first part of seeking compensation under the Ohio Wrongful Imprisonment statute. Now, Charles has the right to move on to the court of claims to file that damages lawsuit just for the compensation. And we're working with the Attorney General at this point to resolve that case. But at the same time, we're also litigating the section, the civil rights case in federal court, currently. And that's because today's action recognizes that he was wrongfully imprisoned, but in the civil rights case, we are pursuing the police misconduct that put him in prison, the police and prosecutorial misconduct that put him in prison," explained Jackson's attorney, Sarah Gelsomino, of Friedman Gilbert + Gerhardstein. 

Gelsomino also said the case was mishandled by investigators.

"The Cleveland murder detectives hid evidence, fabricated evidence, hid witness statements that were completely exculpatory and did improper photo identifications that were very suggestive...just putting pictures of Charles in front of witnesses to get them to identify him. All of that was wholly improper."

Despite what Jackson's been through, he's still grateful. 

"Knowing that I'm out here and I'm free now and I have my whole future to look forward to. No use in going backwards," Jackson said.

There is one thing he'd really like to do.

"I want to go to Disneyland! Take my family on a vacation!" Jackson said.

Editor's Note: The below video is from a prior report on May 3, 2021.

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