Ryan Ferguson’s lawyer, Kathleen Zellner, filed a new petition in January requesting the courts for an appeal on his case.
Supporters of Ferguson petitioned for habeas corpus in February 2011, which would have required Ferguson to appear in court again. The petition stated the recantations of testimonies provided by key witnesses Charles Erickson and Jerry Trump.
In 2004, Ryan Ferguson was convicted of the murder of Kent Heitholt. Heitholt, the sports editor at the Columbia Daily Tribune, was robbed and beaten to death in the Tribune parking lot. There was no DNA, blood or fingerprints linking Ferguson to the crime. Due to the various accounts of the murder since 2005, especially Erickson’s, Judge Green did not consider their recantation to be credible and denied Ferguson a new trial.
The new 154-page petition filed Jan. 30 makes four main claims arguing why Ferguson should be granted a new trial.
The first claim in the petition states, "The recantations of Jerry Trump and Charles Erickson constitute newly discovered evidence that establish Ryan’s actual innocence.”
The petition provides five instances supporting Erickson’s recantation, including a mental assessment report and the testimony of Larry Blum, a forensic pathologist.
“As far as the public knows, there was no physical evidence, no DNA evidence, no known motive, no prior convictions of Ferguson and few witnesses," said Danielle Jablanski, who interned for the prosecuting attorney general's office. "These facts, coupled with the main suspects being discovered three years after the murder, made the case weak from the get-go. Stating that Ferguson did not receive a fair trial does not ultimately prove him innocent. I think the state owes it to Ferguson, his family and friends and the rest of us to set this straight.”
The second claim established that the prosecution used false testimony and violated Ryan’s right to due process.
The petition states, "Prosecutor Cane … allowed false and misleading testimony to be presented to the jury without correction," and that "the knowing use of perjured testimony requires that the writ be granted.”
Bill Ferguson, Ryan Ferguson’s father, is hopeful that the writ will be granted.
“Right now, there is more evidence that Prosecutor Crane committed prosecutorial misconduct than there is of Ryan committing the murder,” Bill Ferguson said.
Supporters plan on using Bill Haws as a witness for the trial if the writ is granted.
“He said incriminating things about Prosecutor Crane," Bill Ferguson said. "We want to question him about it.”
Other witnesses they hope to use during the trial include Trump, Erickson, Michael Boyd, who worked under Heinholt, and Shawna Ornt, who witnessed the murder.
According to the (Free Ryan Ferguson website)[http://freeryanferguson.com/the-facts/], “The State has been given until February 26, 2013 to file Suggestions in Opposition to Ryan’s Petition.”
“There never was any physical evidence that put Ryan at the crime scene," said Myka Cain, a close friend of the family. "Ryan has always maintained his innocence. There is nothing that exists that should keep Ryan incarcerated.”