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?
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.