COLE COUNTY - Ryan Ferguson's week-long evidentiary hearing came to a close early Friday afternoon at Cole County Courthouse. The final findings must be given to Judge Green by June 15th, and he is expected to make a decision shortly after.
Korey Iranpour was the sole witness who testified Friday morning. He went to high school with Ryan Ferguson and Chuck Erickson, but says he was closer friends with Erickson. Iranpour described an occasion in 2003, when he, Erickson, and some friends went to drink at Iranpour's mother's home. Iranpour described the situation as "unusual," because Erickson was visibly upset. Iranpour found Erickson on the back porch, knelt down with his back to the wall, tearing up, crying.
Iranpour described the following conversation in Friday's testimony:
Iranpour: "What's wrong?"
Erickson: "Man, I don't want to talk about it."
Erickson:"Have you ever done something that you regret so much?"
Iranpour: "I'm a human being, I've done a lot of things I regret."
Erickson: "I'm going to have to live with this the rest of my life."
Iranpour: "What are you talking about?"
Erickson: "I can' talk to you about this right now."
Iranpour says he never knew about Kent Heitholt's murder, even though he admitted it was a big case.
"I wasn't really a news advocate back then, so I didn't even hear of Kent Heitholt until Ryan and Chuck got arrested," Iranpour said.
Police came in contact with Iranpour a couple days after their arrest, but he was never asked to testify in trial.
The prosecution then played audio recordings of conversations between Erickson and his parents, Marianne and Jonathan.
"She [Kathleen Zellner, Ferguson's attorney] thinks that if Ryan's case is dropped...she thinks my case would be dropped too," Erickson said.
When Zellner gave the defense's closing arguments, she said, "I've never been in a courtroom where so many people have admitted to lying in a trial," emphasizing that a jury needs to decide who is telling the truth.
"Everything is wrong about this case. It makes absolutely no sense. A new jury needs to evaluate this," Zellner said.
"We could spend years trying to sort out the changes in Erickson's story," Zellner said. "This issue with Mr. Erickson fades in comparison to Jerry Trump."
Zellner said there was no motivation, nothing to get out of Trump coming forward and saying he lied in trial.
Zellner described Trump's testimony in trial as, "only someone with a lot of legal knowledge could come up with," referring to Trump's story of receiving a newspaper article in prison from his wife, with pictures of Ferguson and Erickson. Trump said Judge Kevin Crane, Boone County Prosecutor at the time, made up that story.
Crane denied ever telling witnesses how to testify.
"They are either both innocent, or they're both guilty," Zellner said of Ferguson and Erickson, but said the defense presented clear and convincing evidence that there was a "manifest injustice."
"Now everybody's card are on the table. The court needs to just call this what it is and give him a new trial," Zellner said.
If Judge Green decides in Ferguson's favor, charges are vacated. Meaning, Boone County will then decide on retrial. The losing side in this case will likely appeal, moving Ferguson's case to the Western Appellate Court, then most likely the Missouri Supreme Court.
In the prosecution's closing arguments,
"We wanted to show why the evidence changed. And that gives you insight on why you should reject the credibility of the recantations," Ted Bruce said, continuing on that Zellner, "obviously" can't prove the recantations are true.
Bruce picked holes in Erickson's story, such as restating his fear of the death penalty. Bruce said the death penalty wasn't even an option for individuals 17 years old or younger.
Bottom line: Judge Green can rule in Ferguson's favor that the convictions be vacated, then Boone County will have a period of time to decide to retry him. Or, the judge can uphold Ryan's convictions as they currently stand.