We believers thank our Good Lord on a daily basis for the gifts He sends our way during the year, but Thanksgiving Day is a very special day when we thank Him for our families, friends, jobs and every little detail of our lives.
This Thanksgiving Day I am sure would be a more than special day for the Ferguson family in Missouri. After ten years of suffering, their son is home from prison, free of any guilt that was attributed to him. Quoting the words of Ryan Ferguson in his first public appearance after his release from prison: “It’s incredibly easy” to get into prison, but “to get out of prison, it takes an army, as you can see.” That is the truth. Ryan’s father, Bill Ferguson, has worked day in and day out for ten long years to prove his son’s innocence, but he could not have done it if he didn’t have hundreds of thousands of supporters and believers — not only in the United States, but worldwide — in Ryan’s innocence.
During that first public appearance, Ryan also expressed some very prophetic words: “It’s just amazing to be here knowing that other people haven’t had the support and hope that I’ve had. This is not an anomaly. I think that we have to look at other cases and be aware that this is part of our justice system and there are more innocent people in prison. So keep your eyes open and support them as well.” In Nevada we have the outrageous case of Kirstin Blaise Lobato, an 18-year-old girl who was wrongfully convicted in October 2006 of voluntary manslaughter and sexual penetration of a corpse. She has spent 11 years of her life in prison in Las Vegas even though there is no evidence implicating her to the crime and 13 alibi witnesses who have confirmed she was at her parents’ home in Panaca, Nevada, 170 miles away from the crime scene, when the crime took place. As with Ryan, Kirstin, who is now 29, has also spent the decade of her 20’s behind bars for a crime she did not commit. Unlike Ryan Ferguson, Kirstin has been tried and convicted of first-degree murder as a result of the mistakes of her Public Defender, a biased judge, prosecutorial misconduct and corrupt police
detectives who weren’t willing to interview possible suspects, and consider evidence and information. Due to her inability to afford a good defense team with sufficient resources, skills and time to give her the benefit of every fact, she was convicted and sentenced based on hearsay only.
In May 2001, Kirstin was attacked by a man who tried to sexually assault her. She defended herself and stabbed the man in the groin. For the next several weeks, Kirstin repeated the incident to friends and family. Not knowing what could have happened to the man, Kirstin went home to her parents home in Panaca, Lincoln County, Nevada and trusted her worries and concerns to her former adult high school teacher, Dixie Tienken, who in turn disclosed that information to a friend, Laura Johnson, Lincoln County Juvenile Probation and Parole Officer. Months later, on July 8, 2001, Duran Bailey, a homeless man, was found dead in Las Vegas miles away from where Kirstin Lobato’s attacker approached her.
Through hearsay of third person accounts, on which the entire case was built, Detective Thomas Thowsen and Lt. Jim LaRochelle with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department heard of the attempted rape incident involving Kirstin from a telephone call from Laura Johnson who told them that Kirstin’s father was going to help her to get rid of her car, paint it or hide it out, and quickly arrested her as the main suspect in the murder.
At the time of her arrest, Kirstin Lobato was not informed of the circumstances, location, dates, or details of the crime for which she was taken into custody. Kirstin’s statement about being the victim of an attempted sexual assault in May 2001 on Boulder Highway was misrepresented and presented to jurors as a statement about the murder of Duran Bailey in July 2001, just off the Strip of Las Vegas, and about which Kirstin Lobato knew nothing.
Chief Deputy District Attorneys Sandra DiGiacomo and William Kephart, who, coincidentally, now is also wearing a black robe and is sitting on a bench, prosecuted Kirstin.
Kirstin has requested a DNA testing of crime scene evidence to prove her innocence. The evidence includes semen and male pubic hair found within the victim’s rectal cavity. New evidence as well as petitions for DNA testing and habeas corpus introduced to the Eighth Judicial District Court were denied by Judge Valorie Vega, who — in my personal opinion — is a very negative and biased judge toward women. Judge Valorie Vega gave Kirstin the maximum sentence allowable of 35 years. This is a case of a clearly innocent young woman who should not be behind bars and should never even have been tried for this crime. At a hearing last year, Kirstin’s attorney requested testing on evidence from the crime scene, which would prove others were present at the trash dumpster outside a commercial building where the body was discovered. Kirstin’s DNA was not present at the crime scene. The District Attorney objected, noting that it stands to reason DNA from many different people would be present near a trash dumpster. Kirstin’s request for DNA testing of crime scene evidence to prove her innocence is currently supported by Injustice Anywhere, The Jeffrey Deskovic Foundation for Justice, The Innocent Project (which is willing to cover all expenses of the DNA testing), Proving Innocence, AIDWYC, The Justice Institute, The Freedom Fighters, and the Worldwide Women’s Criminal Justice Network. Clark County District Attorney, Steve Wolfson, has the ability to authorize this testing at any time; still he continues to refuse the granting of such authorization, which is the reason we wonder what the cover-up is all about and who he is trying to protect.
To all of those who stood behind Ryan Ferguson, I ask you today to please share Kirstin Blaise Lobato’s story. She has spent the past eleven years of her life in prison in Las Vegas, Nevada, for a homicide that took place when she was 170 miles away and 13 alibi witnesses have confirmed the same.
Perly Viasmensky is the General Manager of the Las Vegas Tribune. She writes a weekly column in this newspaper. To contact Perly Viasmensky, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.