Ryan Ferguson's Conviction Vacated; State to Decide Fate

4 years 8 months 2 weeks ago Tuesday, November 05 2013 Nov 5, 2013 Tuesday, November 05, 2013 11:00:00 PM CST November 05, 2013 in News
By: Blair Miller, KOMU 8 Digital Producer
loading

COLUMBIA - The Missouri Western District Court of Appeals on Tuesday vacated the convictions of Ryan Ferguson, the now 29-year-old man accused of murdering Columbia Tribune sportswriter Kent Heitholt in 2001.

After spending nearly a decade in prison following his 2005 conviction for second-degree murder and robbery, Ferguson's fate now lay with the state, which has 15 days to decide whether or not to re-file charges in the case.

Ferguson had previously been sentenced to 40 years in prison.

The court handed down a 54-page opinion on the case Tuesday morning, and all three judges on the bench ruled that previous decisions "failed to disclose favorable evidence" regarding Ferguson's case, inciting a Brady Violation.

Click here to read the court's abstract opinion.

A Brady Violation is unconstitutional and is incited after a party has been proven to have withheld exculpatory evidence from the defense.

In January, Ferguson's lawyers and father filed the petition for habeas corpus that Tuesday's decision upheld, claiming there had been several errors in Ferguson's 2005 trial, including the jury selection process and two witness recantations that have happened since then.

Then, at an appeal in September, Ferguson's lawyer argued that an interview, conducted by the state, with the wife of a janitor who implicated Ferguson in the murder, and later recanted, was not shared with the defense.

Ferguson's attorney, Kathleen Zellner, says she is pushing to have Ferguson released on bond pending the state's decision on whether or not to retry him.

Ferguson's family, which has helped maintain Ryan's innocence over the years and led the push to have his convictions overturned, held a press conference Tuesday evening to formally address the vacation of his charges.

"We're just elated," said Bill Ferguson, Ryan's father, in an interview with KOMU 8's Eric Hilt. "We always knew this day would come."

Zellner also addressed the media at the press conference, and said that while this is a step in the right direction for her client, the fight isn't quite over yet.

"If [prosecutors] want to battle on, we're always up for a fight...but our goal is to have [Ferguson] home for Thanksgiving."

"We're already ready for it, we already anticipated a lot of things would happen with the court," Bill Ferguson added.

KOMU 8 spoke with Judge Kevin Crane, ths prosecutor in the original murder trial, as well as current Boone Co. Prosecutor Dan Knight's office, both of whom declined to comment, citing ethical issues.

People across mid-Missouri and the rest of the world reacted to the decision, which has raised national and international attention after being featured on several primetime news shows.

"From the information that I've seen and the reseach that I did, I think that it was at least not enough evidence to convict him," said Columbia resident Kristin Cooksey.

"There were so many questions and I watched this family just come together and fight like no one I've ever seen and never give up and totally believed in Ryan," added Becky Sterling, a co-worker of Bill Ferguson's.

Reaction wasn't all positive around the area in a case that has dragged on for years and drawn divisive lines in the sand between people who believe Ferguson is guilty and those who have always supported his innocence.

Columbia Tribune sports editor Joe Walljasper worked with Kent Heitholt for five years, and says that while he doesn't know what should happen with Ferguson, people should be reminded of Heitholt's family.

"Keep in mind his family because those are probably the people suffering the worst today. Something they thought was over or hoped was over isn't over," Walljasper said.

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, who had previously fought for a retrial for Ferguson, but earlier this year said that he thought the habeas corpus writ was a bad idea, said his office would review the court's decision and consult the local prosecutor before moving forward.

 

 

 

KOMU 8 Reporters Eric Hilt, Nathalie Granda, Christine Roto, and Nick Thompson contributed to this report.

 

 

Related Stories

More News

Grid
List
LAKE OF THE OZARKS - 64 years later, a different lake and nearly triple the death toll, the duck boat... More >>
2 days ago Friday, July 20 2018 Jul 20, 2018 Friday, July 20, 2018 9:12:00 PM CDT July 20, 2018 in News
(CNN) -- Russian intelligence operatives attempted to hack into the online accounts of staffers on three congressional campaigns in the... More >>
2 days ago Friday, July 20 2018 Jul 20, 2018 Friday, July 20, 2018 8:46:27 PM CDT July 20, 2018 in News
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — As Charlotte, North Carolina, celebrates being chosen Friday to host the 2020 Republican National Convention, an... More >>
2 days ago Friday, July 20 2018 Jul 20, 2018 Friday, July 20, 2018 8:05:32 PM CDT July 20, 2018 in News
(CNN) -- A cardiologist who treated former President George H.W. Bush was killed Friday morning in a bicycle-to-bicycle drive-by shooting... More >>
2 days ago Friday, July 20 2018 Jul 20, 2018 Friday, July 20, 2018 7:34:02 PM CDT July 20, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA - The Columbia Police Department will move into a new neighborhood over the next few weeks. In July,... More >>
2 days ago Friday, July 20 2018 Jul 20, 2018 Friday, July 20, 2018 6:41:00 PM CDT July 20, 2018 in News
CALLAWAY COUNTY - A Steedman man was sentenced to 12 years in prison after pleading guilty to charges of domestic... More >>
2 days ago Friday, July 20 2018 Jul 20, 2018 Friday, July 20, 2018 5:22:00 PM CDT July 20, 2018 in News
ST. JOSEPH (AP) — A Missouri man has pleaded guilty in the fatal beating of his 77-year-old grandmother while he... More >>
2 days ago Friday, July 20 2018 Jul 20, 2018 Friday, July 20, 2018 3:59:00 PM CDT July 20, 2018 in News
(CNN) -- The FBI is in possession of a recording between President Donald Trump and his former personal attorney Michael... More >>
2 days ago Friday, July 20 2018 Jul 20, 2018 Friday, July 20, 2018 3:38:16 PM CDT July 20, 2018 in Continuous News
JEFFERSON CITY – House Minority Leader Gail McCann Beatty will resign from the Missouri House of Representatives effective Sunday in... More >>
2 days ago Friday, July 20 2018 Jul 20, 2018 Friday, July 20, 2018 12:57:00 PM CDT July 20, 2018 in Top Stories
COLE COUNTY — The Cole County Sheriff’s Department responded to possible weapons violation on Thursday night. When the officers... More >>
2 days ago Friday, July 20 2018 Jul 20, 2018 Friday, July 20, 2018 11:47:00 AM CDT July 20, 2018 in Top Stories
(AP) - President Donald Trump has indicated that he's willing to hit every product imported from China with tariffs and... More >>
2 days ago Friday, July 20 2018 Jul 20, 2018 Friday, July 20, 2018 8:52:00 AM CDT July 20, 2018 in News
BRANSON - Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley will meet with investigators Saturday at Table Rock Lake to receive a briefing... More >>
2 days ago Friday, July 20 2018 Jul 20, 2018 Friday, July 20, 2018 7:23:00 AM CDT July 20, 2018 in News
BRANSON (AP) — A former chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board says duck boats aren't designed for commercial recreational... More >>
2 days ago Friday, July 20 2018 Jul 20, 2018 Friday, July 20, 2018 7:16:00 AM CDT July 20, 2018 in News
BRANSON - The recent boat incident that killed 11 and injured seven in Branson isn't the first time Ride the... More >>
3 days ago Friday, July 20 2018 Jul 20, 2018 Friday, July 20, 2018 2:06:00 AM CDT July 20, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA - Thursday evening around 9:00 pm, two cars collided head-on at the intersection of Worley St. and W. Boulevard.... More >>
3 days ago Thursday, July 19 2018 Jul 19, 2018 Thursday, July 19, 2018 11:14:00 PM CDT July 19, 2018 in News
KANSAS CITY (AP) — A southern Missouri sheriff and a subordinate with whom he was having a romantic relationship have... More >>
3 days ago Thursday, July 19 2018 Jul 19, 2018 Thursday, July 19, 2018 10:46:00 PM CDT July 19, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA - The City of Columbia confirmed Friday the household hazardous waste collection is cancelled. The waste collection was... More >>
3 days ago Thursday, July 19 2018 Jul 19, 2018 Thursday, July 19, 2018 10:16:00 PM CDT July 19, 2018 in News
(CNN) -- More illnesses have been reported across the United States in two separate cyclospora outbreaks, federal health officials said... More >>
3 days ago Thursday, July 19 2018 Jul 19, 2018 Thursday, July 19, 2018 9:31:35 PM CDT July 19, 2018 in News
Columbia, MO
Broken Clouds 67°
7am 67°
8am 70°
9am 74°
10am 77°