…And Justice For All.

I watched an episode of “48 Hours/Mystery” last night.  The show is still bothering me.  A lot of people, especially in Missouri, probably already know a lot about the case of Ryan Ferguson, but I had never read or heard anything about it until last night.  This is a travesty of justice on par with the “Scottsboro Boys” that I wrote about a few days ago!  Yet, no black defendants or no all-black jury against a white defendant, just manipulation of the justice system by those in power.  When you hear this story, if you haven’t already, you won’t believe it….or maybe you will.

First, as in many cases I’ve watched on the CBS show, they didn’t have a scrap of forensic evidence.  Nothing to link the defendants to the crime.  They had fingerprints, hair samples and bloody shoe prints at the crime scene, but none matched the convicted “killers” or anyone investigated in the case.  The motive was pushing it even more.  Supposedly they needed money to go back drinking in a bar they had been thrown out of earlier for being underage.  A bar which was closed at the time of the murder.

They had eyewitness testimony that was clearly fed to the “witness” by police.  (You can watch the videos if you think I’m being unkind to law enforcement.)  They had a zealous prosecutor that locked on to a theory and never let it go, and still says these two did it, and that he is certain of it.

Juror’s convicted based on a “feeling” that Ryan Ferguson wasn’t telling the truth, and that a drug and alcohol abusing friend was more believable.  The friend, Chuck Erickson (who now wants to be called Mr. Erickson or Charles) had already plea bargained his way out of severe punishment for the crime that he supposedly remembered from a dream!  And for chrissakes, read some of the comments on the website.  They’re still talking about Ryan’s demeanor during trial and his arrogance, and his silence (he did testify).  HOW ABOUT THE EVIDENCE?  WTF  Don’t we prosecute based on evidence anymore?

It seems all too common in this country to be convicted of a crime based on the theories of the prosecution.  If you can spin a good story to a jury, and they don’t “like” the defendant, you can often get a guilty verdict without a scrap of evidence.  Guilty verdicts in high-profile cases get you moved up the career ladder.  Like up to a judgeship which is what happened to the prosecutor in this case.  And once you get that guilty verdict, it’s now a reversal in the appellate courts; you are guilty until proven innocent.

Reasonable doubt in this case was a no-brainer for the jury.  They did have one other “eyewitness”, an alcohol abusing night janitor who claimed he saw the perpetrators and identified Ryan Ferguson in court as one of the men that fled the scene.  However, one of those fleeing, stopped to talk with another female night janitor telling her that someone needed help before he ran off.   Not at all what you would expect someone to do who just struck a man with a metal object and strangled him with his own belt. And none of the “eye-witnesses” saw the crime being committed.

The problem with all the testimony of the eye witnesses, including Chuck Erickson, that best friend, drug and alcohol abuser, who blacked out the crime and then remembered they did it, in a dream, recanted their testimony.  To the point of some admitting they perjured themselves; lied on the stand.  Yet the appellate court still affirmed the conviction.  With each affirmation your anger grows as you watch the show, which is, of course, how the producers want you to feel.

Ryan Ferguson was 21 when he was sentenced to 40 years for the murder of sports editor Kent Heitholt in 2005.  It was four years after the early morning murder in the parking lot of the Columbia Daily Tribune.  It was the morning after Halloween.  Ryan’s father has been the one turning up witnesses, gathering evidence, working with attorneys to file appeals for the last 6 years.  He thinks they’re getting closer and he vows not to give up.

The Missouri Attorney General’s office will respond to the request for a hearing by May 2.  The zealous prosecutor, Judge Kevin Crane, expects to be called as a witness who will undoubtedly still say he got it right.

The morale of the story might be to be more careful when choosing your friends.  If all they have to do to get you convicted of murder is say they saw you do it, it might at least be a good idea not to piss them off.  No matter, without solid evidence these cases should never be allowed to go to trial.  And I don’t care what it costs, if just one witness recants their testimony in a felony murder trial without any forensic evidence, that’s a mistrial, and it needs to be retried. 

Check out this Free Ryan Ferguson website for additional information. http://www.freeryanferguson.com/

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “…And Justice For All.

  1. I found your blog a couple days ago when I had googled “aaron hidden webcams.” So, I read your entire blog. I liked your Geronimo post because I’d been talking about that.

    I live in the greater Columbia, MO area. I watched this 48 hours episode and it made me rethink my feelings about the case.

    Back after the murder occurred, the police visited Columbia bars with a mugshot picture. They had told the boyfriend of a friend of mine that they were interested in talking to a member of the MU football team because the victim was a sports reporter. I remember thinking that the mugshot looked like the QB. Here’s a link of the mugshot and the QB for comparison. http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3607/5715871876_62c4dede60_o.jpg

    • Jena, Wow!, you read the whole thing? Thanks. Hope you found some of it entertaining or interesting at least.

      Thanks for the information on the case. I watch “48-Hours” religiously, and often times get upset with the outcome of the cases, but the Ryan Ferguson case has me incensed. I have followup dates on my calender to check judges rulings in the appeal. I just can’t believe it. The TV show is scripted to do that, I think, but this case had me going for days. I even read all the court room testimony. What really swung me is the video of the police officer giving him the information about how the victim was strangled. How could any District Attorney believe this kid he plea bargained had anything to do with it, when he had to be fed the details of the crime.

      Did you think Ryan Ferguson was guilty at the time?

  2. At the time of the murder, yes, I thought they had the right guys. After all, Charles Erickson confessed and gave up the details. Now, however, I don’t think so. What happened in this trial is a scary thing, actually.

    I’m older and more cynical now. I believe that one of the things that motivates humans to do something is laziness. Prosecuting Attorney Kevin Crane may have had doubts about the way that Erickson was handled by the police, but the path of least resistance to Ferguson’s conviction (and ultimately Crane becoming a Judge) was to proceed down that path.

    Around the time of the arrest of Ferguson & Erickson a lot of bad things happened with the Columbia Police Department. One officer was shot and killed during a traffic stop, the police got bad press for drinking parties on top of the police garage, an officer killed a gay University student that he had a relationship with, and another was stalking his ex-girlfriend by putting a tracking device on her car. Things like that taint the public’s view of the police, of course.

    If you’re ever in Columbia, Ryan Ferguson’s day would take you on a tour of the crime scene. There are things regarding the time line that don’t make sense.

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