Ryan Ferguson's fight for freedom
"Everything is wrong about this case, everything's wrong about it. It makes absolutely no sense," Kathleen Zellner told the court.
The only evidence that ever linked Ryan Ferguson to Kent Heitholt's murder was the word of two witnesses. Now that both have recanted - under oath -- Zellner feels she's done her job.
"It ought to be plain as day to anyone looking at it, this case is just a complete fraud," she told reporters outside the courthouse.
"We'll just wait for the judge's decision," a prosecutor told the reporters.
Ryan's father Bill Ferguson is more upbeat than he's been for years.
"We feel like it went very, very well," he told the reporters.
Prodded by a reporter, he fantasizes about his son's first day of freedom.
"Whatever he wants to do, the rest of us will support 100 percent. I got a feeling he's going to be wanting a good hot shower and a good meal," Bill Ferguson said.
The judge promises a quick decision, but Ryan Ferguson has to wait six-and-a-half months. Then, the appeal is denied.
"I just sat in this room by myself. And just stared at the floor ... and its frustrating because you don't know, even with all the facts, if you'll ever get your life back," Ryan Ferguson told Erin Moriarty.
The evidence that Judge Daniel Green heard wasn't enough to convince him that Ferguson is innocent, so his conviction will stand.
"It caught me so off guard ... I was just totally blindsided," Bill Ferguson said of he judge's ruling. "You know, I almost -- my knees almost buckled. And I remember -- supporting myself against the wall of the hall, and I was just -- it was just surreal. You know, it was like -- the worst dream possible."
In his decision, the judge sides with the Missouri Attorney General and says he believes Charles Erickson was a far more credible witness seven years ago at Ryan Ferguson's trial than he is today.
"This judge, he didn't say Erickson was a liar all the way through," Zeller said. "He cherry-picked out his trial testimony and said, 'Oh, no. He was telling the truth then, but he subsequently became a liar." It - it -- it's just a -- it doesn't make any sense."
What's more, Judge Green says that much of Zellner's new evidence wasn't new at all -- that experts like pathologist Larry Blum were available in 2005, and could have been called at Ferguson's trial.
Still, one part of Judge Green's decision could help Ferguson. The judge does believe that Jerry Trump lied at the trial in 2005, although he doesn't believe the prosecutor asked him to.
"That's good. But then, he took that away by saying it didn't matter. It didn't matter because there was Chuck Erickson," Zellner said. "So what we've got right now is Ryan Ferguson's life and his conviction rest on the testimony of Charles Erickson at trial."
"That's it?" Moriarty asked.
"And that's it. That's all that's holding the case together," said Zellner.
"So as you sit here today, do you think you had anything to do with this?" Moriarty asked Charles Erickson.
"No," he replied.
"Do you think Ryan Ferguson did?"
"No," said Erickson.
"What if Ryan never gets out of prison? How will you feel about that?"
"I will feel like I have done all that I've can to remedy the situation," he replied. "And that I made a lotta mistakes on the way, but in the end, I tried to do the right thing."
"You don't think this decision's gonna hold up?" Moriarty asked Zellner.
"No. It will not," she replied. "This cannot stand. This cannot be the final decision, the final chapter for Ryan Ferguson."
Ryan's father is determined to press on -- outlining his son's plight on a website he runs.Website: Free Ryan Ferguson.com
"We reached a million people on Ryan's birthday," he said of the site.
Bill Ferguson is also offering a $10,000 reward for finding the man who was seen in the parking lot that night.
"... we really want to tempt the public, if they know something, to come forward," he said.
As of now, Ryan Ferguson is still in prison. Yet the fact remains that there are now no witnesses who say he killed Kent Heitholt. None. And there never has been any physical evidence to tie him to the crime. So Ryan somehow managed to kill a man without being seen, leaving no trace behind or he is an innocent man.
"It's the first time, I would say, in my career of 28 years, that I felt ashamed to be a lawyer," Zellner told Moriarty. "I've always felt that the system works ... so this time, I thought, 'This is just so unfair.' ... It's -- and it made me more determined ... To get him out. Because he is absolutely innocent. ... And I don't want to be part of a system that cannot recognize and correct an error."
Ryan Ferguson is not angry at Charles Erickson. He says he's just relieved that he told the truth.
"It looked so good this time. Does that make it more difficult to have optimism?" Moriarty asked.
"I think that makes it -- just phenomenally more difficult," Ferguson replied.
"Have you lost all hope?"
"I haven't lost all hope," he said.
"But you sound discouraged."
"Yeah, yeah," Ferguson said, "but ... I'm an innocent man, and the facts prove it."
Kathleen Zellner has appealed this latest decision. It is Ryan Ferguson's 13th attempt to overturn his conviction.
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