Updated: August 9, 2011 at 4:43 pm
Cole County Judge Daniel Green has set an October habeas hearing for Ryan Ferguson.
Ferguson was convicted and sentenced to 40 years in prison for the 2001 murder of Columbia Daily Tribune Sports Editor Kent Heitholt on Halloween night.
Ferguson TMs conviction was the result of the testimony of Chuck Erickson, who said he helped Ferguson kill Heitholt, and Tribune employee Jerry Trump, who said he saw Ferguson at the scene of the crime.
Both men now say they were lying during Ferguson TMs 2005 trial. They also say the prosecutor at the time, Kevin Crane, helped them with their false testimony.
Bill Ferguson said, Those 2 people will be on the stand on October 25 to explain to a sworn court their false testimony and Kevin Crane TMs participation in that false testimony. We are looking forward to that date.
Nationally known defense attorney and high-priced lawyer Kathleen Zellner is now representing Ryan Ferguson for free. Zellner said she has already helped free 13 men from prisons who were wrongly convicted of crimes. She hopes Ryan Ferguson is number 14.
Zellner said, There is no question that he will be free eventually on this evidence, whether it will happen at this level or whether it will happen in a higher court. You can TMt have a case where you only evidence is two witnesses who had totally recanted their testimony. You have no evidence that the conviction is based upon. Eventually, he is definitely going to be free.
Judge Green expects Ferguson TMs habeas hearing to last 5 days. That hearing is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. on October 25.
Assistant Attorney General Stephen Hawke wrote that Erickson TMs multiple statements before, during and after the trial still placed Ferguson at the murder scene with sufficient detail for a jury to convict Ferguson of felony murder.
Habeas hearing scheduled for Ryan Ferguson for October 25. The hearing is expected to last at least four days. A Habeas hearing is an opportunity for the defense attorneys to present the evidence they believe shows their client was wrongfully convicted.Defense attorneys want to prove Ryan Ferguson's actual innocence by proving the prosecutor used false testimony during Ferguson's trial. Ryan Ferguson and former Boone County Prosecutor Kevin Crane are expected to attend the hearing. 26-year-old Ryan Ferguson was convicted in 2005 of second-degree murder for the strangling of Columbia Daily Tribune sports editor Kent Heitholt. Police said the murder happened Halloween night in 2001 in the newspaper's parking lot.
A jury convicted Ferguson largely on the testimony of Charles Erickson, a former high school friend. Erickson pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and received a 25-year sentence in exchange for that testimony.
But Erickson now says he acted alone. That claim is at the heart of Ferguson's latest post-conviction appeal.
(The Associated Press contributed to this story.)