Ferguson's appeal of jury issue progressing

Monday, October 27, 2008 | 6:11 p.m. CDT; updated 10:04 a.m. CDT, Monday, June 15, 2009

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.

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Molly Kennedy Adams November 1, 2008 | 1:53 p.m.

Columbia is so diminished by this ludicrous prosecution of an innocent citizen and his equally innocent, mentally ill accuser.
Judge Crane's conduct should be investigated thoroughly in light of the evidence that has gradually come to light despite his shameful tactics.
The pursuit of power led to corrupt and illegal conduct in the persecution of two innocent people.
Did Heitholt's murder and the community's safety mean nothing to the "authorities" in this case??
Apparently not.

(Report Comment)
amanda white October 5, 2009 | 6:09 p.m.

Hello. I watched a show about this trial last night and just had to look up the story today. I was very much hoping that Ryan's family had been able to get him an appeal and a new trial. The conviction the first time as far as I am concerned was just baseless when it was so obvious from the information provided that the police had just latched onto these two boys because they so desperately wanted the case solved that they couldn't see that the one confessing ( Chuck ) I'm pretty sure had some kind of mental illness. I am a registered nurse, and if you work in the health care field you are aware of the fact that most mental illnesses start presenting in the late teens or early twenties, he seemed to be having delusions. Schizophrenia maybe? I am not sure really, but it at least should have been looked into. The poor guy went to talk to the police in a terrible state of mind, and they told him how he killed someone because he sure didn't seem to know, heck, he didn't even know where he did it. I am just so saddened these kinds of failures take place in our legal system, and that these two young men, one who probably needs some psychiatric help, and one who probably had a very bright future ( we are approximately the same age so that makes it hit home a little more for me I suppose) ahead of him, just ripped away with so little care it seemed to me. Police work needs to be so very diligent. You know, when it comes to health care and policemen, we really can never take our jobs too seriously, because peoples' lives really are in our hands, peoples' everything, the most important people in their world, so you have to really, really, know before you say " I am sure without a doubt", or "Yes, this is what it is". I certainly wouldn't feel of a lump on a womans breast and say, "Ya know, you smoke cigarettes, you're in your 40's, you're not breast-feeding, that's cancer!" I feel like it was kinda rushing it to just take someone's word for it and not have any backing evidence, even if Chuck said he did it, Ryan didn't, so you still have to prove him guilty, and I'm sorry but you really didn't, so do us all a favor and let the innocent man go!!!!

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