My Point of View
Rolando Larraz is off this week. In his absence, Perly Viasmensky, General Manager of the Las Vegas Tribune, is taking his place with this open letter.
Re: Wrongful conviction of Ryan Ferguson, a Missouri native.
I could have used the Postal Service or electronic mail to send this letter, but I have learned by experience that many times letters sent to government officials never reached their hands because staff members considered the communication without merit.
I believe you are more than aware that hundreds of thousands of people in the United States, and all over the world, for that matter, are behind the case of Ryan Ferguson and the injustice of the justice system of the State of Missouri.
The words of British historian, Lord Acton, come to mind in this case: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad man.” This phrase was widely used by the late United States Presidents John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, and I now feel compelled to use it in my personal opinion of former Boone County prosecutor (now Circuit Court Judge) Kevin Crane.
Allow me to comment on the state that you so proudly represent.
The mission of the Missouri Division of Tourism is to promote the state as a top-of-mind travel destination. Do you believe, Governor, that with the story of an innocent man wrongfully convicted because of the mentality of a corrupt prosecutor, people actually want to go on vacation to Missouri – to leave on probation 40 years later?
I am sure you are also very proud of the Missouri Film Commission, which was created to attract film, television, video and cable productions to Missouri. Do you actually want more television productions of such an embarrassment as the case of Ryan Ferguson?
Former prosecutor Kevin Crane had no physical evidence to convict Ryan Ferguson of murder. He probably was able to fool Ferguson’s peers at his jury trial because it was very clear they were not very bright people who were not paying attention to the trial; or worse, they knew Crane well and helped him to win the case so he could fulfill his dream of becoming a Circuit Court Judge.
State Supreme Court Justices in Missouri are elected for 12 years. Even though I’ve lived in Las Vegas, Nevada most of my life, I am not a gambler, but I am willing to bet that Kevin Crane already has his eyes set on a seat in the State Supreme Court.
A Missouri appeals court stated quite simply, “There is no physical evidence that ties Ryan Ferguson to this murder.” Prosecutor Kevin Crane also stated this to the jury at the beginning of the trial. Despite the fact that both witnesses coerced by Mr. Crane have now recanted their accusations, and despite the fact that no physical evidence ever existed, Judge Daniel Greene has denied the latest of 13 appeals in the case.
What is it, Governor? A personal vendetta against this young man or furious ambition to advance in the political world at any cost? Whatever happened to reasonable doubt – the reasonable doubt required in criminal proceedings under the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
You, I, and the whole nation know that every fact is essential to proving the element of the offense, which must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. This is a case of the worse kind of miscarriage of justice.
I am sure you have heard the following facts many times before, but I want to bring them back to your attention one more time to refresh your memory and to remind you that your intervention is imperative to free this young innocent man:
—After police coercion, Chuck Erickson, a young man mentally disturbed due to his long usage of drugs, claimed he struck the victim, Kent Heitholt, with a tire iron taken from Ryan Ferguson’s car trunk and that Ferguson strangled him.
—At his first police interrogation, Erickson had no idea how Kent Heitholt was murdered, until police detectives fed information that had not been made public to this unstable man.
—The tire tool found in Ryan Ferguson’s car was cleared by the FBI. His car was tested for blood evidence; none was found linking Ferguson to the crime.
—A single strand of bloody hair was found in the hand of the victim. It did not match Ryan Ferguson’s.
The ruling of the United States Supreme Court in Samuel Winship, 397 U.S. 358, 90 S. Ct. 1068, 25 L. Ed. 2d 368 (1970) fits this case to the exact point. The Court ruled that the highest standard of proof is grounded on “a fundamental value determination of our society that it is far worse to convict an innocent man than to let a guilty man go free.”
You probably would not want to order a thorough investigation of everyone involved in this case for political reasons; and believe me, we would understand. What we do not understand is how you can turn your back and ignore the fact that an innocent man was convicted by corrupted police officers under the direction of an even more corrupted prosecutor and an incompetent jury, forgetting the point that no one is immune to prosecutorial misconduct. Yes, Sir, we all have children, brothers or sisters who could fall victim to an overzealous prosecutor with aspirations of a higher political position, willing to destroy whomever crosses his path
We are very much aware that police officers commit perjury on a daily basis in any court of law. Prosecutors are no exception, and probably neither is the State of Missouri.
Get involved, Governor Nixon, and sign a well-deserved PARDON for Ryan Ferguson.
Just one more question, for my personal knowledge: According to people living in Missouri, the Jefferson City Correctional Center where Ryan Ferguson is a guest of the State, is located on “No More Victims Road.” Is this a joke or an insult to our intelligence? A road called “No More Victims,” when an innocent man, a VICTIM of the judicial system of the State of Missouri, is doing 40 years behind the walls of a building located on “No More Victims Road? This must be a bad joke.
Honestly, Governor, that road should be renamed. It is an insult not only to the people of Missouri, but also to all who pass through your state.
Ryan Ferguson’s release from prison with complete freedom granted is long overdue.