The Ryan Ferguson case is quite literally insane, and something that shows the depths of the U.S. justice system. In short, he was convicted of the murder of Kent Heitholt, a former sports editor in Missouri. Charles Erickson, an acquaintance of Ferguson’s who he had been drinking with that night, claimed they both killed Heitholt. Erickson later recanted his story, as did Jerry Trump, a janitor at the scene who initially fingered Ferguson as well. In addition to the two recants, there was no physical evidence at the scene linking Ferguson to the crime. Erin Moriarty has been covering this case for 48 Hours for about eight years; this morning, she was with Ferguson’s parents as his conviction was vacated, meaning he might be out of jail in 15 days or sooner — after almost a decade inside.
A website has been up for this cause for years, and now it appears victory may have been achieved. Now … as for who did it? Take a quick look at crime scene photos (nothing too graphic) and then consider this article, implicating Michael Boyd (a former co-worker). Former co-workers have defended Boyd, but his story has changed repeatedly:
Some believe Heitholt may have been killed for revenge; his sports section had recently done a drugs-in-sports feature that was poised to affect some big schools, including the University of Tennessee. Even though Boyd has consistently been judged as innocent, you do have to consider the notion that he was the last person to see Heitholt alive, yet his stories are a bit inconsistent. That’s not the best 1-2 step.
One of the most terrifying things for most people in society has to be the idea of getting jailed for something you didn’t do. This is probably about 150x worse when you get jailed because someone had a ‘dream-like memory’ of the two of you killing a man together, and another man indicates his testimony was false and driven by the prosecution:
(Trump may have lied because of a sex crimes conviction he was dealing with.)Here’s some more context from the Dateline producers, and you can bet that 48 Hours and Dateline will both be clamoring for that ‘home for Thanksgiving’ video this month. It’s unclear at this moment what happens to Chuck Erickson, although Ferguson is concerned for him — and remember, no evidence matches Erickson either. Erickson has maintained at times that he acted alone, but a more reasonable assumption is (a) someone the police haven’t released as a suspect or (b) Boyd, referenced above. The interrogation of Erickson is pretty shocking in the spoon-fed sense, actually: This case was bungled from the jump. It’s a great thing that Ferguson might finally be getting some freedom — it’s years too late, but a positive development nonetheless. (It could theoretically be bungled again.) For today at least, it’s good to see rights wronged in the justice system. Congrats to Ryan, his family, his support team, and his lawyer, who I believe worked this pro bono (but likely has some money coming to her now, especially after they sort out any wrongful conviction fees). Let’s hope this is a wrap: