Back on the Box Once Filled With Soap

If it were to be researched, I’d probably find out that I am addicted to true crime shows.  I’ll bet there is a term out there to describe that addiction too.  Something like “crime show addict” maybe.  Shows like “Dateline,”and “48 Hours Mystery.”  These are two shows that I never miss.  Never miss because if I can’t watch them at their regularly scheduled time, I record them.  And, I might add, I get annoyed when I’ve already seen the story on one show and now it’s on the other, which happens a lot.  The shows use different methods to reveal the “plots” though.  After watching the shows, I’m usually bothered by the fact that the defendants are convicted usually on nothing more than circumstantial evidence.  It also happens a lot.  I say this a lot too, “How could they possibly convict him/her with no evidence?”  I say that to no one in particular.

Back on March 29th, I watched a “48 Hours Mystery” that didn’t just bother me a little, I became incensed about the outcome of the case, and it lasted for days.  I searched online and read every scrap of evidence, court document and newspaper account that I could find.  The case, in my blog titled “…And Justice For All,” is the Ryan Ferguson murder trial.  A trial for the murder of Sports Editor Kent Heitholt of the Columbus, Missouri, Tribune.  A conviction earned mostly using the testimony of a witness that was, first,  given a deal by the prosecution, and second,  didn’t remember the murder until a year later in a dream he allegedly had.  Ryan has been denied seven appeals as witnesses have recanted testimony, new evidence has been found, new witness statements made, and obvious problems with the timeline of the crime have come to light.

When I wrote the story I got a comment from a reader in the area who was familiar with the case.  She said at the time she felt that Ryan was guilty, but over time had changed her mind.  The 48 Hours episode had made her rethink the case.  She told me that shortly after the murder “… the police visited Columbia bars with a mug shot 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 mug shot looked like the QB.”

I have to agree somewhat, but does the police sketch look a lot like Ryan Ferguson as well?  Clearly Ryan doesn’t look at all like the quarterback at MU, right?

Kathleen Zellner, Photo by Ann Kristen

Famous Defense Attorney Kathleen Zellner, has finally won Ryan Ferguson a new day in court.  An evidentiary hearing is set for the case on October 25th, in an attempt to vacate the 2005 conviction.  It took two years of legal manuvering, but a judge will hear co-defendant, the “dreamer” (my nickname), Charles Erickson recant his trial testimony.  He’s still indicating that Ryan was at the crime scene, but insists that he did nothing to the murder victim.   He originally said that Ryan had strangled the victim after he had initially beat up the victim with a tire iron that was never found.  Erickson also was fed information by police.  Captured on video, police tell Ryan what the victim was strangled with, because Erickson DIDN’T KNOW.  He was totally surprised on the video when he was told that it was the victim’s own belt.  The evidentiary hearing date is set for October 25th and could last five days. 

The case scares me.  Can you really be sentenced to 40 years in prison for killing someone, because a friend says you did it?  Jurys can decide the innocence or guilt of someone without real EVIDENCE.  It’s been proven time and again.  In fact, in this case, forensic evidence at the scene doesn’t match either of the co-defendants!  Common sense should tell you that a confession from a drug user with a dream sequence and clear evidence that he was fed information by police, with no forensic evidence to support it, should not be sufficient to convict of 1st degree murder.  Even the prosecution’s motive is called into question.  They say the boys killed Keith Heitholt to rob him, because they needed money to go back to a bar that was already closed.  How does this happen?

The Casey Anthony trial comes to mind.  Although most of us thought she was guilty, the evidence presented to the jury was just not there to convict her.  Thinking about it after the fact, although enraged about the verdict, I think that the jury decision in the case was correct.

The problem I see with this new evidentiary hearing is the opposite.  Cole County Circuit Judge Daniel Green will make the decision, not a jury. This could be an even scarier prospect in my opinion, because of the players on the prosecution.  Assistant Attorney General Stephen Hawke has said on previous occasions that he doesn’t believe the recantations of testimony are credible.  I wonder what he’s smoking.  Or is he protecting the system from this obvious miscarriage of justice and the careers of those it helped propel.  Boone County Circuit Judge Kevin Crane, for one.  WTF  He’s been accused by the defense of helping one of the prosecution witnesses remember what Ryan Ferguson and Charles Erickson looked like by showing him newspaper photos before he took the stand.  Judge Crane isn’t talking.

I’ve got a calendar follow-up set on the hearing, because I can’t stop believing that they convicted the wrong man.  Somebody out there knows the truth and if police had done their jobs in 2001, maybe this case wouldn’t be such a travesty of justice with everyone trying to cover their asses at the expense of an innocent man.



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6 responses to “Back on the Box Once Filled With Soap

  1. It’s a scary situation. Ryan Ferguson’s father posts comments and updates on stories about his son in the Tribune.

    The whole trial and aftermath has caused me to have a more jaded view of local law enforcement and the justice system.

    • Hi Jena,
      I always have had a jaded view of the justice system. Too many screw ups, plea bargains, bad attorneys and corrupt judges. In my personal view I think the system rarely works, and this is just one example. Plea bargains, especially in exchange for testimony, should never be allowed in criminal trials, period.

      I took the Law School Admissions Test LSAT after I graduated from college but never had the opportunity to go to Law School. I call it an opportunity, but I’m not so sure it would have been.

      Thanks for the comment. I’m keeping my eye on the case still.

  2. I am wondering if you have any feelings about the West Memphis 3 case.

    • Jena, Funny you should mention that. I was researching it today for a future blog. My gut feeling is the step-father and friend did it. Don’t really think it’s Satanic related at all. Just a couple of sick pedophiles. I believe one of the convicted was involved, but maybe only to lure the boys over for his stepfather. It’s a sick case and I want to look into it more. I’m confused how they could get out by pleading guilty but innocent of the charge. Very interesting.

  3. Last night I’d watched the 48 Hours episode (online) about the WM3. I hadn’t seen it before, but I had seen both of the HBO documentaries about the case. I see some similarities between this case and Ryan Ferguson’s. Both had a less than competent teenager be interrogated by the cops for hours until he was able to spin the story their way and confess. Both cases had no forensic evidence linking the person(s) convicted to the crime, while other people were linked to the evidence.

    One of the things that I thought was interesting is that the so-called “ring leader” realizes and admits that he was a jackass rude teenager who didn’t help himself at all during the trial.

    I agree that the step-father and friend did it. But I don’t think any of those convicted played any part in the crime.

    As I was going to sleep last night, i thought about how the now free WM3 were going to be going to sleep in the first non-prison/jail bed they would experience in more than 50% of their life.

    • Yep, I saw the similarities in the cases right away too. Makes me wonder if there are hundreds more like them. Frightening thought. I’m sure there are thousands out there that still think they are guilty too. Freedom isn’t really appreciated until you lose it.

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