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Accepting the Past

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I felt quite good the other day after watching a news report about an innocent man who had spent two thirds of his life in jail.

I have to confess that is a strange thing to say… but it’s true.

I rarely watch TV news because so many of the stories are tragedies that I don’t need to know about and this one could have been more depressing than most, but it wasn’t.

The story was about Ricky Jackson, who is now 59, being released from a Cleveland, Ohio prison in the United States, after the key witness in his trial admitted he had lied.

In 1975 Eddie Vernon testified he had seen Jackson and two friends kill a businessman, but now Vernon admits he didn’t actually see anything.

The state acknowledges that without that testimony, there is absolutely no evidence against the three men.

Like I say, potentially very depressing stuff and few would blame Jackson for hating the man who helped put him away, but Jackson isn’t like that and I think his forgiving nature may have helped him deal with this massive injustice.

In fact, it would appear he has even managed to see things from Vernon’s perspective. Here are a few of the things he had to say about him:

“I’m dying to meet him. I want to embrace and hug him. It took a lot of courage to do what he did. He’s been carrying around a burden for 39 years like we have, but in the end he came through and I’m grateful for that.”

Vernon was only 12-years-old at the time of the murder and he claims the police bullied him into saying he saw Jackson, Ron Bridgeman and his brother Wilie commit the crime.

He also says the cops threatened to charge his parents with perjury if he didn’t stick to his story, but still, 39 years is a long time to come clean.

The brothers have also been released, but the news story didn’t feature any of their comments.

The thing that jumped out of the screen about Jackson though, was his refusal to see himself as a victim and amazingly, he came across as a reasonably happy man.

“That’s something that happened,” he said. “Everyone is going through something in their life. This was our something.”

Jackson was 18 when he was arrested and convicted.

I was 18 in 1975 as well, so while I can’t relate to what he’s gone through, I have a fair idea of some of the things he may have missed.

One thing I can relate to though is his assessment of how the world has changed since he was locked up.

“Technology is the big difference. I’m not saying I grew up in a perfect world, but we used to have time for each other, now people only have time for a text.”

That may be the case, but Jackson still has time for people and I think that may have more to do with his acceptance of things he can’t change, than it does with the fact he doesn’t waste a lot of time playing with his new phone.

I, meanwhile, have plenty of time for Ricky Jackson, and knowing there are people like him walking around makes me optimistic for the human race.