Petition denied for man convicted of killing Tribune editor

COLUMBIA – A lawyer for a man convicted in the same murder case as Ryan Ferguson said he is "just really disappointed" Charles Erickson will remain in jail.

Erickson pleaded guilty of killing a Columbia Daily Tribune sports editor in 2001. 

“The reason we’re going after things now and he hasn’t in the past is because I think, frankly, for the first couple of years, he thought he did it,” Erickson's lawyer Landon Magnusson said.  

Magnusson filed a writ of habeas corpus on Erickson's behalf, a legal right to determine whether detainment is lawful or not.  

The petition was denied Tuesday.

KOMU talked to Erickson’s mother over the phone Wednesday. She said she and the defense team were prepared for that.

“We take it one day at a time. Then and now,” Marianne Erickson said. “It’s been difficult. It’s been really difficult. Excruciatingly difficult.”

Investigators said Erickson and Ferguson were on the scene when Tribune sports editor Kent Heitholt was shot on November 1, 2001. 

Ferguson consistently maintained his innocence, and after years of appeals and petitions, his sentence was commuted by then-Gov. Jay Nixon in 2013.

Erickson now contends his confession was coerced.

Magnusson said a petition is the only way to get Erickson cleared.

“When it’s the only pen on the table and you need to write something down you grab it,” Magnusson said. “It was all that there is.”

Marianne Erickson believes there is one answer for her son.

“For ultimate justice for him, he needs to be exonerated,” she said. “He needs to have those convictions wiped off his record.”

Erickson is up for parole in 2023, but his mother and Magnusson said that’s not how they want him to leave prison.  

“Even if he gets out of prison in four years and he walks,” Magnusson said. “He’s still someone that has to try and live a life with a murder conviction.”

During the first aired recent interview with Erickson he said he doesn’t expect the public, or even his family to believe his new claim of innocence.

Erickson’s mother said she believes her son.  

“His confession and wrongful conviction, for me, and his admission of guilt in 2009, was always an enigma to me and difficult to understand knowing my son,” she said.

The next step in Erickson’s case is another writ of habeas corpus filed in the eastern district court of appeals.

Magnusson said he will speak to Erickson in the coming days about how far he wants to take his case.

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