Ferguson's fate rests in judge's hands

A Cole County judge must now decide whether Ryan Ferguson's murder trial still stands in court.

Judge Daniel Green held a week long evidentiary hearing for Ferguson based on new evidence in his case that could give Ferguson a new trial or his freedom.

Ferguson is serving a 40-year sentence for second-degree murder and robbery in the 2001 strangling death of Columbia Daily Tribune sports editor Kent Heitholt in the newspaper's parking lot.

If Judge Green agrees to throw out Ferguson's murder conviction based on this week's new evidence, then this case could eventually go to the Missouri Supreme Court. If Judge Green rules in favor of Ferguson, the next step would give Boone County prosecutor Dan Knight the power to grant a re-trial because Boone County authorities have jurisdiction over the case.

Both sides based their final arguments on the testimony of two key witnesses. Co-defendent Chuck Erickson and former newspaper janitor Jerry Trump both said they lied about Ferguson's involvement in the murder of Heitholt.

Ted Bruce, special prosecutor, said, "Because Mr. Trump and Mr. Erickson's recantations are not truthful, Mr. Ferguson is not entitled to leave from this court."

Defense attorneys said the testimony of Erickson and Trump was true. Erickson now says he can't remember anything from the night of the murder and Trump said he lied when he put Ferguson at the crime scene.

Kathleen Zellner, defense attorney, said, "I don't know how it could be much clearer than Mr. Trump's testimony, and we have Mr. Erickson's testimony. A jury should be deciding this. There should be a new trial granted on that."

Judge Green has until June 15 to make a decision on this case. No matter what the judge decides, the case is expected to go through a lengthy appeals process.