Ryan Ferguson's Evidentiary Hearing Begins
COLE COUNTY - Ryan Ferguson entered a Cole County courtroom just before 9:00, Monday morning. Around 50 people, including Ferguson's family sat in the courtroom.
Ferguson's attorney presented an opening brief, saying they would present new evidence to prove Ferguson's innocence. Key pieces of evidence would be Charles Erickson and Jerry Trump's recantation of testimony, a witness supplying an alibi for Ferguson, an expert autopsy and the timeline of events.
"It's been many years since the murder...the case has been through multiple court proceedings. As the case has progressed, the truth has revealed itself. We believe that we will be able to convince by clear and convincing evidence that Ryan Ferguson is innocent of the murder of Kent Heitholt," said Kathleen Zellner, Ferguson's attorney.
The prosecution made three main points in its opening statements, saying there is no new evidence, a jury already convicted Ferguson and Erickson is recanting in order to make his life easier in prison. The prosecution said Erickson has received two more assault charges since he's been in prison because of fights that stemmed from his "snitch label."
After Erickson said he acted alone, he had no problems with fights.
"There is sufficient evidence that Ryan Ferguson was involved in the murder of Kent Heitholt in 2005," said the prosecutor to close opening statements.
After opening statements, the court watched a video of Jerry Trump, a witness in 2005 trial, being questioned by Zellner and the prosecutor. Trump says he could not identify the people he saw in the parking lot on the night of the murder.
At the time of the murder, he says he was terrified of ending up back in prison.
"I was not real positive about what I had said at  trial. I was recently released from prison. I was on parole. I was scared out of my mind that something else would go wrong. I was laying low, as they say, as much as I could...I didn't want any trouble," said Trump.
Trump said "to some degree" he felt pressure to give an identification because he was concerned about the situation being turned around on him.
Prosecutor questioned Trump for an extended period of time about where he first saw the photos of Ferguson and Erickson. The question is whether or not Trump testified against Ferugson because he had already seen pictures of them, and associated them with the crime; and whether Crane pressured Trump to testify against the men by showing him the newspaper pictures.
Trump originally tesified in 2005 that his wife had sent him a newspaper article with the photos while he was in prison. Trump testified that he saw the photos and immediately recognized the men before he even read the headlines to see why they were in the newspaper.
In the video Monday, Trump says he does not remember his wife sending the picture. Trump now says he does remember Crane showing him the pictures at some point, and saying "it would be helpful" if he testify that he saw the photos before reading the headlines.
Trump said he felt like he was "under the guidance of the prosecutor's office." When prosecution asked if Crane ever explicitly told him to identify Ferguson, Trump said no.
KOMU 8 has reporters in the courtroom and will keep you updated with details of the story.
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