Western District Missouri Court of Appeals decided Ryan Ferguson’s
convictions are to be vacated and he is to be released from the
Jefferson City Correctional Center where he has been incarcerated for
the last 10 years for a crime he did not commit.
A panel of judges has ruled that Ryan Ferguson did not get a fair
trial. As a result, he must be released as soon as November 20, if
prosecutors don’t file for a retrial within 15 days.
Ryan Ferguson is serving a 40-year prison sentence in the 2001
strangulation death of the Columbia Tribune Sports Editor Kent
Ryan could be let out even sooner now that his lawyer says she plans
to file for a bond motion.
The Missouri case of Ryan Ferguson is the worst miscarriage of justice
the American people have seen several in the last years.
On Halloween night in 2001, Columbia Tribune Sports Editor, Kent
Heitholt, was found murdered in the Tribune parking lot.
Years after that fateful 2001 Halloween night that Ryan Ferguson spent
with someone he believed was his friend, Charles (Chuck) Erickson,
then 17, Ryan was away at college while a troubled, mentally unstable,
drug addicted Chuck Erickson began confiding to friends he was having
dreams about Heitholt’s murder.
Erickson’s friends reported their conversations to the police and he
was brought in and questioned.
Erickson’s interrogation was taped and it has been all over the
Internet; in it was seen a troubled and confused young man fed details
of the crime, of which he was unaware, by Columbia Police detectives
John Short and Jeff Nichols. Erickson had read in the newspapers and
understood that two people were involved in Heitholt’s murder, so in
exchange for a 25-year sentence, and to avoid a death sentence, he
identified the person he was with on that fateful night as Ryan
Ryan Ferguson, who had never been in trouble before, was accused of
murder; he had no connection to the victim; his hair samples and
fingerprints were never connected to the crime scene. And the bloody
shoe print was never connected to him. Yet he was arrested, convicted
and sentenced to 40 years based on the testimony of the high school
friend and crack freak that he was with the night of the murder at a
nearby discotheque, as well as the eyewitness testimony of Jerry
Trump, a janitor of the newspaper building, who at the very beginning
could not identify the perpetrators of the brutal murder.
Ryan Ferguson was convicted of second-degree murder and first-degree
robbery in the death of Kent Heitholt. He must be now released from
prison because the state violated federal law by withholding material
evidence during his trial, the Appeal Court ruled.
Attorneys for the state have 15 days during which they can either
appeal the ruling of the justices or ask the Missouri Supreme Court to
consider the case. If the state declines either option, Ryan Ferguson
would be freed and home of Thanksgivings’ Day.