Crane Testifies in Ryan Ferguson Hearing
COLE COUNTY - Circuit Judge Kevin Crane testified Thursday on the fourth day of Ryan Ferguson's evidentiary hearing. Crane, who was the Boone County prosecutor for the original Ferguson trial, denied allegations other witnesses have presented against him throughout the hearing.
Earlier in the week, Chuck Erickson, who was a suspect in the murder of Columbia Tribune Sports Editor Kent Heitholt and who pled guilty to a lesser charge and testified against Ferguson, testified in this hearing that his attorneys talked to Crane at that time about a possible first-degree murder charge. Erickson said investigators and attorneys made him believe he could face a first-degree murder charge if he did not plead guilty. Erickson testified he believed first-degree murder was equivalent to the death penalty. Erickson also made vague accusations of Crane threatening him.
On Tuesday, Tribune janitor Jerry Trump —who identified Ferguson as the killer in his trial—accused Crane of developing a story to present to the jury in order to convict Ferguson. Trump said Crane never explicitly told him to lie, but said "it would be helpful."
Thursday, Crane said the first-degree murder was never an option for Erickson. First, because he was 17 at the time of the murder—not eligible for the death penalty under Missouri law. Crane said regardless of the law, he does not remember ever considering the case qualifying for a death penalty punishment.
Crane also denied allegations that he manipulated Trump to identify Ferguson. He said that Trump told him his wife sent him a photo from a newspaper clipping while his was in prison, and it triggered memories for the case. According to Crane, Trump said he then remembered seeing Ferguson at the scene.
Trump said on Tuesday he fabricated that story under Crane's instruction. Trump testified that he only saw Ferguson's face when Crane presented him with a newspaper photo of Ferguson.
Crane explicitly denied ever telling a witness to identify someone falsely.
"I want the witness to answer truthfully, not tell more than they know," said Crane.
Crane was the last witness the defense called to the stand in the hearing. The prosecution called Mark Kempton, Erickson's attorney, for its first witness.