The Missouri Court of Appeals Western District has vacated the conviction of Ryan Ferguson in a 2001 felony murder case.
Ferguson and his attorneys argued that newly discovered evidence showed he was innocent and claimed that his due process rights were violated, depriving him of a fair trial.
Tuesday morning, the Court of Appeals concluded that Ferguson "has established the gateway of cause and prejudice, permitting review of his procedurally defaulted claim that the State violated Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963) by withholding material, favorable evidence of an interview with Barbara Trump, the wife of Jerry Trump, one of the State's key witnesses at trial. The undisclosed evidence renders Ferguson's verdict not worthy of confidence."
His conviction was overturned and Ferguson was ordered discharged from custody, unless the State files to retry him within 15 days.
Boone County Prosecutor Dan Knight told KRCG 13 in a statement that he "is aware of the opinion issued today from the Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District regarding the Ryan Ferguson case". The statement also explained that "until he has had time to read the opinion and to discuss the matter with the Attorney General's Office, he is unable to comment".
Ferguson was convicted on the testimony of Charles Erikson in the 2001 murder of Columbia Daily Tribune sports editor Kent Heitholt.
Heitholt was leaving his office Nov. 1, 2001 when he was beaten and left to die in the parking lot. Ferguson, who was 19 at the time of the crime, wasn't named as a suspect in the case until early 2004 when his childhood friend, Chuck Erickson, told police he and Ferguson committed the crime.
Four years after Erickson's confession - which landed both him and Ferguson behind bars - the troubled teen said he lied at Ferguson's trial and that the two didn't commit the crime.
Stay with KRCG 13 for the latest details in this case. We will update this story as soon as more information becomes available.