COLUMBIA — As Ryan Ferguson waits to hear a Boone County judge’s ruling on one challenge to his 2005 murder conviction, his Cole County appeal, which is based on jury selection, is moving forward independently.
Ferguson’s public defender, Valerie Leftwich, was in Cole County court Monday for a show-cause hearing in the case, and a judge set an evidentiary hearing for Dec. 15.
While the appeal now being considered by Boone County Circuit Judge Jodie Asel cites ineffective assistance of counsel, Ferguson's Cole County appeal is based on what Leftwich has called an improper jury selection process in Ferguson's 2005 trial.
Twelve potential jurors from Lincoln County opted out of service by performing six hours of community service and paying $50, Leftwich said. Lincoln County Circuit Judge Dan Dildine, who created the jury policy, said it was designed for people who weren’t exempted from service by statute but would be significantly inconvenienced if they had to serve.
Ferguson was convicted in 2005 of second-degree murder and first-degree robbery in connection with the 2001 murder of Columbia Daily Tribune sports editor Kent Heitholt. Ferguson, who is currently serving a 40-year sentence, has maintained his innocence and has since filed a number of appeals.