KANSAS CITY - The man convicted of killing Columbia sportswriter Kent Heitholt in 2001 took another step toward trying to gain a retrial on Tuesday. An attorney for Ryan Ferguson appeared at the Missouri Western District Court of Appeals for a hearing to argue whether the 2005 conviction is fair.
The habeas hearing allowed both Ferguson's lawyer and a state prosecutor to argue whether the trial was conducted properly. Both lawyers spoke for about fifteen minutes with five minutes given to Ferguson's lawyer for a rebuttal.
Most of the arguments centered around possible Brady violations, or information that the prosecution may have withheld from the defense that could have affected the outcome of the trial.
The testimony of witness Jerry Trump was the main focus of the hearing. Ferguson's attorney said the prosecution did not give the defense information that could have helped the defense point out Trump misidentified Ferguson. Trump originally testified he saw Ferguson at the scene of the crime on the night of Heitholt's death in 2001. However he recanted that statement later, saying that he lied in his testimony and did not see Ferguson.
The courtroom was nearly full for the hearing and many Ferguson supporters attended. Ryan Ferguson's father, Bill Ferguson talked with KOMU 8 News before the hearing, and said he was very hopeful about the outcome.
He said more information had come out about Trump's testimony that made this appeal different than Ryan Ferguson's last attempt.
"We know more information now. We didn't have two people committing perjury. We knew they did, but they hadn't admitted it," Bill Ferguson said.
But even if this appeal doesn't go his way, he said he isn't giving up hope.
"We will go to the world court if we have to," Bill Ferguson said.
KOMU 8 News contacted Chris Koster's office for a statement, but a press secretary refused to comment. Koster has previously been a vocal opponent of a retrial for Ferguson. Earlier this year he said there was no new evidence and Tuesday's hearing was a bad idea.
It took the judges for the last appeal hearing more than six months to reach a decision.