Ferguson's appeal rejected

Saturday, January 10, 2009 | 1:06 p.m. CST; updated 10:03 a.m. CDT, Monday, June 15, 2009

JEFFERSON CITY — A Cole County judge has rejected an appeal by the Columbia man convicted in 2005 of killing a newspaper sports editor four years earlier.

Ryan Ferguson's public defender argued that a Lincoln County jury was chosen improperly because of an unusual program allowing some residents to avoid jury duty by performing six hours of community service.

In a ruling Friday, Judge Richard Callahan agreed that the exception "clearly violates" state law but said it didn't warrant overturning the conviction. The judge noted that only 13 potential jurors out of 848 in the jury pool took the community service exemption.

Ferguson and an accomplice were convicted of killing Columbia Daily Tribune sports editor Kent Heitholt in 2001. Colleagues said he was attacked in the newspaper's parking lot while feeding a stray cat during a late-night shift.


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