How were things going for you in 1975? It was a great year for me. I got a job in a television show that changed my life.
But it was a terrible year for Ricky Jackson, Wiley Bridgeman and his brother Ronnie, who is now Kwame Ajamu. Their lives were changed, too. The three teenagers in Cleveland, Ohio, were convicted of a murder they did not commit and sentenced to die.
Kwame was just 17 when he was arrested. While Ricky holds the unfortunate distinction of the longest serving wrongfully convicted person in American history—more than 39 years. Together they spent over a century in prison because of the false testimony that police coerced from a 12 year old boy. They were finally exonerated last November.
At least they were not executed before their innocence could be proved—although at one point Wiley came within three weeks of being sent to the electric chair by the state of Ohio. But their case serves as a stark reminder of why we cannot have an irreversible punishment—the death penalty—in our flawed system of justice.
The exciting news for the DPF Awards Dinner is that Wiley Bridgeman, Kwame Ajamu and Ricky Jackson—along with the attorneys who fought for their freedom—will be there to accept the Rose Elizabeth Bird Commitment to Justice Award.
I hope that you will join us on the evening of May 7th at the Beverly Hilton to honor these three incredible men and their dedicated attorneys.
We will also be honoring some great champions of the campaign to end the death penalty. These include:
- CNN’s Death Row Stories, represented by executive producers Alex Gibney, Brad Hebert and Laura Michalchyshyn.
- Dale Baich, Assistant Federal Public Defender, an attorney who has spent the past 27 years protecting the constitutional rights of death row inmates.
- The late Rabbi Leonard Beerman, founding DPF board member.
For more information about the dinner and our honorees, please visit www.abolitionawards.com.
Seats are filling up fast, but there is still time to reserve your place. Click here to get your tickets today.
By attending our Annual Awards Dinner, you will directly contribute to our efforts to end the death penalty not only in California, but around the world. I hope you can join us.