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Kathleen Zellner files petition to appeal Ryan Ferguson case

The petition provides five instances supporting Erickson’s recantation.

Cait Campbell/Graphic Designer

Feb. 19, 2013

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)[], “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.”

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Article comments

Feb. 23, 2013 at 9:09 p.m.

Pamela : Please free this man. Enough is enough. He will never get over this. I hope he sues. May God bless.

Feb. 23, 2013 at 9:11 p.m.

J: This is a travesty of our judicial system. Ryan has been wrongfully convicted and someone needs to right this wrong and reprimand the judge who failed to overturn this case. Shame on the prosecution.

Feb. 23, 2013 at 9:19 p.m.

Vickie Rice: Is there anything that "we the people" can do to help this poor man get out of prison ? It is so painfully obvious that he is innocent. Can there be a peoples petition to get him a new trial or just to overturn this injustice ? My heart goes out to him and his family.

Feb. 23, 2013 at 9:47 p.m.

Milla Öst: Please.. We´re watching from Sweden as well.. I´m watching crime documentarys, facts all the time, this case is the first, I really feel, he´s innocent.. No DNA, no evidence, no motive and people lying.. Don´t you think 10 years is enough for Ryan?? I´m begging, even if someone did wrong, say, I´m sorry, we did wrong.. I think if Ryan is free, he will think of God, and you, and he and God will forgive that 10 years he already did.. Please, free Ryan and let me still believe, humans have a heart.. We still watching from sweden.. God bless you all, Ryan and his lawyer Kathleen.. Please. <3

Feb. 23, 2013 at 11:03 p.m.

Angie: Everytime I watch something on this story, its makes me sick to my stomach. I feel so sorry for what this guy has gone thru. How could anyone live with theirselves for finding this guy guilty, if I was a juror this guy would be free & hopefully one day he is. Free Ryan!!!!!!!

Feb. 23, 2013 at 11:24 p.m.

Dana Thomas: Your in my prayers. Please hang tough. We believe.

Feb. 24, 2013 at 12:54 a.m.

Sharon Burroughs: Has anyone ever looked at the possibility that this horrible crime could have been done by a passer by or a stranger that was trying to carjack the guy.

Feb. 24, 2013 at 5:34 a.m.

IBINAR: I have seen a LOT of injustices in my life, but this one takes the cake. I used to live in Columbia and my son went to school with the judge..... total embarrassment and a black mark on the city.

Feb. 24, 2013 at 7:06 a.m.

Patty: I have been following this case and my heart is so heavy with sadness. This young man is innocent and those that can do something about it will not admit a wrong was done. This is one reason why I could not be on a death penalty case...we make mistakes as imperfect individuals. You may as well say that Ryan is on death row. Every day he spends incarcerated is one more day his life has been taken away from him. Why can't those in the lead recognize this mistake and correct it. My prayers are with Ryan and his family who are also serving this sentence.

Feb. 24, 2013 at 7:53 a.m.

Joyce Wenberg: Have you thought about getting the Innocence Project to look at this case. It is obvious that Ryan is innocent. Shame on the prosecutors and the judge for continuing to keep this boy in prison.

Feb. 24, 2013 at 12:19 p.m.

eugene lang: My wife and i also want to help what can we do we are so sad

Feb. 24, 2013 at 3:04 p.m.

Elizabeth: It seems the investigation was flawed and those that saw the victim last were not even questioned as suspects.Why did they not have their cars checked? Rather then admit mistakes the prosecution has clung to a confused young man's story which has now been recanted.If the prosecutor is now a judge that should have no bearing on setting a wrong right.

Feb. 24, 2013 at 7:51 p.m.

Jamie Rogers : I've been watching this go down for years and it is Soooo sad Ryan didn't not do this crime n the system Knows it. What can we all do for Ryan n his case?? any ideals?? We sld all get together and picket the court house or better yet the judge that looked over the truth!!! Lets not forget Ryan

Feb. 24, 2013 at 9:35 p.m.

Carolyn: How can someone be convicted when there is no evidence at all. I feel so bad for Ryan and his family.

Feb. 24, 2013 at 10:22 p.m.

Sharon: I had learned that a person was innocent until PROVEN guilty. There has been NO proof that Ryan is guilty. It is sad and unfair that the "powers that be" cannot admit that a horrible mistake has been made in Ryan Ferguson's conviction. It is not too late for the state to right this wrong!

Feb. 24, 2013 at 10:32 p.m.

DC: I don't understand how it can be that his innocence is so painfully obvious to everyone except the prosecutors and judge in the case. Can't something be brought before the Governor's office to initiate some sort of deal? Perhaps something could be worked out to free Ferguson such as was done with Damien Echols? I know he wants a new trial, but this man needs to be out of prison NOW. The judge in this case should be ashamed of himself.

Feb. 25, 2013 at 1:02 a.m.

dek: This story is so sad - I hope the legal system there can prove it believes in real justice and free this innocent man - It would be hard to be anyone who is part of the system and responsible for Ryan's continued imprisonment - would not want to have that hanging over my head each day. I pray for Ryan's release and hope and pray that God is with him and will help those in the legal system to see the light and free themselves from the burden of knowing that he does not belong in prison by finally setting him free. If there is a public movement that is helping push for Ryan's appeal or release, please report. I think many will support the well justified efforts to help this innocent man. If there is truly justice for all, he should be freed now.

Feb. 25, 2013 at 7:58 a.m.

Prosecutorial Misconduct : Hello... my name is "prosecutorial misconduct" (Judge Crane). All that matters is my record of successful prosecutions, not someones life or the protection of the judicial system, much less their innocence. It's all about "wins" and my climbing the ladder. Now I'm a Judge! Do you really think my "peers" will rule against me? How many of them have done the same? It's the system... get over it! Ryan's life is nothing in the big scheme of things. What matters is my life and the number of people I put behind bars, no matter their innocence. Now, will the day come that you will be in my Court Room so I can cast judgement on you? Guilty I say!...... Sad, but true reality of our judicial system. No, I've never committed a crime. But I have been accused of one. After nearly 100K in attorneys fees, private investigators and uncovering evidence with held by the Prosecutors, "ALL CHARGES WERE DISMISSED". My life was nearly ruined by a handful of 20K a year kids in the prosecutors office, trying to climb the ladder just as this prosecutor has done. What person on a jury would ever throw away a life based on this? Oh, the testimony was coerced, thats why. A sad system of justice!

Feb. 25, 2013 at 11 p.m.

Traci: It is overwhelmingly obvious that Ryan is innocent. This case breaks my heart!! How could any judge see what everyone else sees and deny the appeal. Ryan needs set Free!!! I can't wait til the day finally happens!!

Feb. 25, 2013 at 11:10 p.m.

William Klein: Why not petition the Governor asking for clemency for Ryan?

Feb. 25, 2013 at 11:48 p.m.

Guest: As an MU journalism MA grad, I am dismayed at what has happened to what was such a wonderful place.. Dirty police and a corrupt prosecutor. How could you let this happen???

Feb. 26, 2013 at 9:40 a.m.

Cathy: Judge Green needs to be looked into. There is something wrong here.This is no longer a circumstantial evidence case as they called it. It is cold hard facts that Ryan is innocent. This judge stinks along with the prosecutor. His last hearing was enough to grant him a new trial. My family and I have sighed his petition and if we could do more we would.

March 2, 2013 at 12:35 p.m.

Debbie Levasseur: I first saw this case on TV a year ago or more and it broke my heart. I noticed that it was on 48 hours again a few days ago. I felt compelled to watch the story again. It sickened me to know that a innocent man was the sacrificial lamb to satisfy the judicial system. It sickens me even more to think that this the very system we look to uphold justice and protect the innocent and victims. This system robbed a man of his freedom, his life, of memories of good times with family and friends and his innocence. What ever happened to innocent until found guilty. Ryan is clearly innocent. He will never get back the nine years that he has lost but deserves to live the rest of his life a free man....not to mention that he should be financially compensated for his pain and suffering. No mater the amount, it will never be enough for what he and his family has lost.

March 7, 2013 at 8:35 p.m.

Lynne Glass: I am in deep, unrelenting prayer for this young man. WHAT A TRAVESTY OF JUSTICE

March 9, 2013 at 10 p.m.

Lia Bottoms: I can not believe how corrupt our system is. Isn't there anything we can do to free this innocent man!? This is just a terrible thing these judges and prosecutors have done. I hope they feel one day, the way they have made Ryan and his family feel. I am praying that this man will be set free.

March 25, 2013 at 9:16 a.m.

Ricky Fur: All, please watch the Erickson recantation on youtube "". Either Erickson or Ferguson is still lying, because they still contradict each other. Erickson still places Ferguson at the scene, and Ferguson denies being there at all. This case is not as simple as most people make it out to be.

March 30, 2013 at 6:39 p.m.

Cindy : I cried when I watched 48 hours! Free him!!

April 23, 2013 at 10:18 p.m.

Beverly Gerard: My heart is longing for the Justice Ryan Ferguson is truly entitled to. May my words be a message of love, hope, and faith. Everyone pray for Ryan Ferguson night and day until he is released. Please God, father show mercy unto this young man. Please release Ryan Ferguson Today!!! Dear Jesus I am a sinner, forgive me, I need you now. Forgive my sins. Cleanse me with your blood right now, remove my sins, remove iniquities. Wash me now make me clean. I receive you as my Lord, my Redeemer, Savior and God right now. I surrender my life to you. I give my life to you.

June 17, 2013 at 9:47 a.m.

Maya: THE LATEST DECISIONS MADE IN THIS CASE LACK CONNECTION WITH THE SPIRIT OF THE TRUTH. THEY OUGHT TO BE CONNECTED WITH WHAT IS JUST and WHAT IS THE RIGHT THING TO DO IN THIS CASE. YOUR DECISIONS HAVE NOT BEEN BASED ON THOROUGH REVIEW, EVALUATING ALL OF THE EVIDENCE AND ALL EVIDENCE THAT IS LACKING -- THIS NEEDS TO BE CORRECTED SO THAT INNOCENT RYAN FERGUSON CAN GO HOME. ERICKSON'S IMPRISONMENT ALSO NEEDS REEVALUATING, EVEN WITH HIS SELF-ESTEEM ISSUES AND LACK OF FAMILY SUPPORT. Judge Daniel Green seems to be more concerned with aligning himself with the Attorney General's office who also missed it -- than he is concerned with evidence, the lack of evidence, and the spirit of the truth. STEP UP AND DO THE RIGHT THING, PEOPLE. Reverse these crap decisions you have rested on that are keeping innocent people in prison. Too bad you who miscall the shots are not also having to do years of prison as convicted felons for murder, being innocent. No need to go for money when Ryan had money. Two good kids with no records -- neither one violent and neither a thief -- wouldn't violently attack to steal money they didn't need, money each could have gotten in a nonviolent way. No one at the bar remembers them showing up when Erickson proposed -- after the bar was closed -- because they never left the bar until Ryan drove Chuck home, then himself home. Why should Erickson protect Ryan Ferguson by saying he previously lied and now tells the truth that Ryan Ferguson was not at all involved and neither was he? Erickson & Ferguson are not more close over time; the reason Erickson says this now is that it is the truth. You can take someone who is quite bright, saddle them with emotional issues like low self-esteem, or mental health issues like OCD or compulsive guilt or schizophrenia and, with these, a bright individual can come across as not "together" or "bright" at all, just the opposite. They can appear lacking and confused, because their priorities have shifted with their conditions. It appears this is what has been occurring with Erickson. Here he is spending 25 years in prison for having low self-esteem (plus possibly for being compulsively guilty or schizophrenic). He has been able to arrive at the truth over time with no one judging him, pushing him, making him feel he has to please them. Having settled down, he is better able to evaluate what is truth without people stirring up his emotions that get in the way. IF YOU HAVE THE POWER TO ACT AND RIGHT THIS SITUATION, PLEASE ACT IMMEDIATELY.

Sept. 10, 2013 at 1:54 p.m.

DORIS HANNAH: The prosecutor and the Judge should both be locked up for 10 years while they are investigated...they lie for one another while this poor man is trying to hold it together and loosing his life because of them.. they are guilty of imprisonment of a innocent human...a kid at the time..Isn't that "LIFE" ....??

Dec. 13, 2013 at 3:25 a.m.

stella moreno: Hello my name is Stella Moreno. I am so happy for Ryan and his family. My son Jacob was wrongly convicted of a crime he did not commit they gave him 50 to life. He has made 9 years. I need help to get his conviction over turned...My son was not there the night of the crime. i know the courged the witness to point him out. They were illegals. I am a desperate mother who needs someone to help get my son out. his trail was a joke. please if you can help contact me 909-519-3910. Thank You and god bless you.

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