Fergusons may try to help exonerate son's accuser
Wed, 06 Nov 2013 07:40:10 GMT —
The parents and attorney of a mid-Missouri man convicted in the 2001 murder of a Columbia Daily Tribune editor held a press conference Tuesday afternoon, after his convictions were overturned.
On Tuesday, the Missouri Western District Court of Appeals overturned murder and robbery convictions against Ryan Ferguson, who is currently serving a 40-year sentence for the 2001 killing of newspaper editor Kent Heitholt.
Tuesday evening, his family addressed the national media at the Tiger Hotel in Columbia.
Ferguson's father said the experience has shaped their family. "We will fight for each other until the bitter end," Ferguson said. "Just like any parents out there would do for your children... we're not really any different from any other set of parents."
Defense attorney Kathleen Zellner asked the court today to order bail for Ryan Ferguson. The state has seven days to rule.
"It's really simple to convict someone who is innocent if you have witnesses who are lying, its very simple. It's unbelievably difficult and complex to undo a conviction like that."
Zellner says the case is being watched across the country. She has confidence in the competence of the panel of appeals judges.
As the day draws near that Ferguson might be headed home after nearly 10 years of confinement, his parents are elated.
"Once we get to know each other again, we'll head to the basketball court and play some basketball," Ferguson's father said. "Of course, we'll probably stop by the mall and pick up some tennis shoes first."
For the case to get to this point, however, Zellner and Ferguson's family say they have had to spend innumerable amounts of time working on the particulars of freeing Ferguson.
However, Zellner said there are legitimate reasons for the convictions to be overturned. She pointed out to reporters that the conviction was overturned because of a constitutional violation, not a mere technicality.
MU Law professor Rod Uphoff agrees the case had holes. "The only real evidence that the state would have is Chuck Erickson. And Chuck Erickson, he's given so many different stories that his credibility is well, it's not very strong." Uphoff notes Erickson has changed his story and recanted testimony against Ferguson.
Also recanting his testimony was a janitor who said he saw the two in the parking lot the night of the crime. Tuesday's ruling centers on Trump's wife's interview on how Trump made identification of the two suspects.
"He should never have been charged," said Leslie Ferguson. "He should never have had to go through a trial, and yet he did. It's difficult not to be angry about that, but you can't let anger consume you. You have to move forward," she said.
Tuesday's decision does not set Ryan free, but gives the state 15 days to decide if they want to re-file charges against him. Boone County Prosecutor Dan Knight says he will confer with the attorney general on the case before making a decision.
After learning of the decision, CBS News 48 Hours spoke to Ferguson at the Jefferson City Correctional Center.
"I feel good. I haven't actually been able to enjoy it yet you know... be in the moment. So I think once I'm with my family that's when it will probably hit me, when I step foot out there and I can hug my mom and my dad."
Ferguson was not ready to claim victory just yet, but said he has won a battle in his war for freedom.
Bill Ferguson says even if their son is able to join them at the Thanksgiving table as a free man, they will carry on their fight to others affected in the case.
"I can think of one right now, and his name is Charles Erickson," Ferguson's father said. "He's not guilty, he didn't do anything wrong. He was manipulated and coerced into giving false testrimony... he just filled in the spaces. So yeah, we're going to try and help exonerate him," Ferguson's father said.ã??