Ferguson Pushes Forward with Appeals Process

Related Story

COLUMBIA - Bill Ferguson, the father of convicted murderer Ryan Ferguson, said Friday he is pushing forward with the appeals process for a new trial despite a statement from Attorney General Chris Koster this week saying he wants Ferguson's latest appeal to be denied.

Bill Ferguson, issued the petition for habeas corpus on Jan. 30 in hopes of getting his son a new trial for the 2001 murder of Columbia Daily Tribune Sports Editor Kent Heitholt. He said his petition claimed there had been several errors in Ferguson's 2005 trial, including the jury selection process and two witness recantations that have happened since then.

The Missouri Western District Court of Appeals agreed to hear the appeal, but on Tuesday Koster wrote a suggestion to the court asking it to deny the petition. In Koster's suggestion, he wrote that the Cole County Circuit Court found that there is no new evidence in the case after an evidentiary hearing in April 2012.

But Bill Ferguson said he and his son are staying positive. He said he expects the court of appeals will review the case and set a hearing for this summer, despite Koster's suggestion.

On the Free Ryan Ferguson Facebook page, Bill Ferguson and the others who run the site posted this response to Koster's statement: "We fully expected this response and the petition will now go to a panel of two judges who will decide whether to proceed with the case. As always we will keep fighting for justice for Ryan."

As of Friday afternoon, the post had garnered about 600 comments. Many of the comments were from people saying they planned on writing to Koster asking him to reverse his suggestion.

Ferguson said he isn't encouraging people to do that, but appreciates any effort to free his son.

Koster's press secretary, Nanci Gonder, said she was not sure if Koster would respond to the planned emails, letters and messages from the commenters.

The Jan. 30 petition comes after Oct. 31, 2012 when a Cole County judge denied Ryan Ferguson's request for a new trial. Ryan Ferguson is currently in the Jefferson City Correctional Center serving his 40-year sentence for the 2001 murder.

Bill Ferguson said he has spent around $200,000 on his son's appeal, including the billboards he put up in November 2012 asking for information about the case, and offering a reward for new information that could help Ryan Ferguson's appeal.