Ryan Ferguson's Conviction Vacated; State to Decide Fate

5 years 9 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
JEFFERSON CITY- The Long-Term Recovery committee is looking for volunteers to help with disaster relief in Cole and Miller Counties.... More >>
2 hours ago Monday, August 26 2019 Aug 26, 2019 Monday, August 26, 2019 2:54:00 AM CDT August 26, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA - Boonville School District buses will take snow routes Monday due to flooding. According to Boonville School District,... More >>
6 hours ago Sunday, August 25 2019 Aug 25, 2019 Sunday, August 25, 2019 11:14:00 PM CDT August 25, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA - As Rock Bridge High School student Hope Keithahn headed into her senior year, she came up with an... More >>
6 hours ago Sunday, August 25 2019 Aug 25, 2019 Sunday, August 25, 2019 10:30:00 PM CDT August 25, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA — Troopers said a Fulton teenager was seriously injured after she was ejected from her car in a Callaway... More >>
9 hours ago Sunday, August 25 2019 Aug 25, 2019 Sunday, August 25, 2019 8:18:00 PM CDT August 25, 2019 in News
OVERTON, Mo. - Authorities are searching for a motorcycle rider who fled the scene of a crash on I-70 Sunday.... More >>
10 hours ago Sunday, August 25 2019 Aug 25, 2019 Sunday, August 25, 2019 6:51:00 PM CDT August 25, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA – One of the nation’s most restrictive abortion laws is scheduled to go into effect in Missouri on Aug.... More >>
11 hours ago Sunday, August 25 2019 Aug 25, 2019 Sunday, August 25, 2019 5:32:00 PM CDT August 25, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA - A new exhibit, organized by the League of Woman Voters and the Boone County History and Culture Center,... More >>
12 hours ago Sunday, August 25 2019 Aug 25, 2019 Sunday, August 25, 2019 5:05:00 PM CDT August 25, 2019 in News
HIGBEE - After closing last June, the Higbee Senior Center is attempting to re-open. The center hosted a benefit lunch... More >>
12 hours ago Sunday, August 25 2019 Aug 25, 2019 Sunday, August 25, 2019 4:19:00 PM CDT August 25, 2019 in Continuous News
SUNRISE BEACH - The Lake of the Ozarks Shootout resumed Sunday after being suspended Saturday. The race was called... More >>
13 hours ago Sunday, August 25 2019 Aug 25, 2019 Sunday, August 25, 2019 3:31:00 PM CDT August 25, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA - After five years of a growing business, Peggy Jean's Pies is moving to a new location. With... More >>
1 day ago Saturday, August 24 2019 Aug 24, 2019 Saturday, August 24, 2019 8:05:00 PM CDT August 24, 2019 in News
ASHLAND - After Gov. Mike Parson called for the state legislature to convene in a special session to discuss a... More >>
1 day ago Saturday, August 24 2019 Aug 24, 2019 Saturday, August 24, 2019 6:46:00 PM CDT August 24, 2019 in News
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A defense attorney is seeking a psychiatric exam for the semi driver charged with causing a highway... More >>
1 day ago Saturday, August 24 2019 Aug 24, 2019 Saturday, August 24, 2019 4:06:00 PM CDT August 24, 2019 in News
LAKE OF THE OZARKS — Missouri State Highway Patrol divers recovered the body of a missing man Saturday night from... More >>
1 day ago Saturday, August 24 2019 Aug 24, 2019 Saturday, August 24, 2019 3:50:00 PM CDT August 24, 2019 in News
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — An Iowa-based grocery chain says it's aware of reports that hacked customer account information is... More >>
1 day ago Saturday, August 24 2019 Aug 24, 2019 Saturday, August 24, 2019 2:23:00 PM CDT August 24, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA - Columbia police are investigating a crash on I-70 at Stadium Boulevard on Saturday afternoon that left one person... More >>
1 day ago Saturday, August 24 2019 Aug 24, 2019 Saturday, August 24, 2019 1:50:00 PM CDT August 24, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA - Participants raised $83,988 for the Columbia Walk to Defeat ALS on Saturday. In its 12th year, the... More >>
1 day ago Saturday, August 24 2019 Aug 24, 2019 Saturday, August 24, 2019 1:48:00 PM CDT August 24, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA - A butterfly mural has appeared in a Columbia alley and has become a new photo destination. Children's... More >>
1 day ago Saturday, August 24 2019 Aug 24, 2019 Saturday, August 24, 2019 11:35:00 AM CDT August 24, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Four years after student protesters denouncing a racist campus culture and demanding a more diverse faculty... More >>
1 day ago Saturday, August 24 2019 Aug 24, 2019 Saturday, August 24, 2019 10:26:00 AM CDT August 24, 2019 in News
Columbia, MO
Broken Clouds 69°
6am 67°
7am 70°
8am 71°
9am 71°