In 1975, a man began breaking into houses in Franklin County, Ohio, and raping the women who lived in the homes. The perpetrator was dubbed the “Grandview Rapist,” based on the Columbus neighborhood where the first attacks had taken place.
24-year-old William Bernard Jackson, a young father, was arrested for these crimes, and several of the rape victims identified him as the rapist in a police lineup. These eyewitness identifications served as the only evidence against Jackson, who maintained his innocence. On January 12, 1978, Jackson was convicted by a jury on two counts of rape and sentenced to 14 to 50 years in prison.
In 1982, William Bernard Jackson had been in prison for five years when police in Franklin County arrested Dr. Edward Franklin Jackson, a prominent Columbus physician and board member of a Columbus hospital, on aggravated burglary charges. At the time of his arrest, Dr. Jackson had been found in the home of two women, who were not home at the time of his break-in, with a bag containing a ski mask, rope, surgical gloves, and other tools. These items all fit the modus operandi of the Grandview Rapist. In searching Dr. Jackson’s home, police found that he had kept a list of his rape victims, and the list included the names of the women whom William Bernard Jackson had been convicted of raping.
Although the two men were not related, Dr. Jackson and William Bernard Jackson bore a strong physical resemblance as well as similar names. William Bernard Jackson was released from prison on September 22, 1982. He was granted a new trial and the prosecutor dropped the charges against him. “I’ve been stabbed, beaten and everything else,” William Bernard Jackson said of his time in prison. While he was in prison, his young son had died after being struck by a car, and William Bernard Jackson had not been permitted to attend his funeral. He told the press, “The only reason I can see that I’m doing all this time is that I’m a poor black and I look like someone else…”
A grand jury returned a lengthy indictment against Dr. Edward Jackson on September 24, 1982, which included 36 charges of rape. The charges against Dr. Jackson involved incidents dating to September 28, 1975, and the indictment was the longest in local court history.
In 1985, the State of Ohio awarded William Jackson $720,645 after a new law was passed allowing a person who had been wrongfully convicted to recover $25,000 for each year spent in prison, plus lost wages and attorney’s fees.
– Researched by Katie Welnhofer
The National Registry of Exonerations is a project of the Newkirk Center for Science & Society at University of California Irvine, the University of Michigan Law School and Michigan State University College of Law. It was founded in 2012 in conjunction with the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law. The Registry provides detailed information about every known exoneration in the United States since 1989—cases in which a person was wrongly convicted of a crime and later cleared of all the charges based on new evidence of innocence. The Registry also maintains a more limited database of known exonerations prior to 1989.
We welcome new information from any source about exonerations already on our list and about cases not in the Registry that might be exonerations.