Judge awards Ryan Ferguson 10 million dollars
COLUMBIA - A settlement of over $10 million was reached between the city of Columbia and Ryan Ferguson Monday evening in a federal court.
The judge awarded Ferguson $10 million citing damages along with $150,000 in attorney fees and more than $800,000 in fees for the law firm.
In 2005, Ferguson was convicted of the November 2001 murder of Columbia Tribune Sports editor Kent Heitholt. His sentence was vacated in 2013 after an appeals court ruled evidence was withheld during the original trial.
Ferguson filed a civil lawsuit against Columbia police officers for failing to properly investigate evidence in Heitholt's murder. The intial lawsuit intitally sought a $100 million judgement.
In court today, Ferguson's parents shared the expereince of the fear they had for their son while he was in prison as he shifted to an "opposite enviroment" from the one where he was raised. Both also expressed concern of his psychological change throughout his time in prison and after his release.
"I saw a lot of anxiety. I saw some fear, and I defintley saw who he was change as a result of that," said Ferguson's mother, Leslie Ferguson.
Bill and Leslie Ferguson also expressed concern about their son's future and well-being.
"It's a handicap to have that expereince and find your way in the world," said Bill Ferguson.
Ferguson's attorney, Kathleen Zellner said in court a trauma expert evaluated Ferguson who concluded he suffers from severe Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Zellner told the judge she wanted to conclude the ordeal so Ferguson could move on with his life.
Zellner spoke of the fabrication of evidence in the intial case and of a "reckless investigation."
"I think it has to be recognized as an extreme violation of someone's right," Zellner said.
Zellner sought reward to Ferguson's pyschological damages and loss of income.
The $10 million was calculated based on case law, which awards an average of $1 million for each year spent in prison.
This story has been updated with additional information.