Court declines to hear Ferguson’s appeal

Thursday, April 2, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 10:03 a.m. CDT, Monday, June 15, 2009

COLUMBIA — The Missouri Western District Court of Appeals has declined to hear Ryan Ferguson’s appeal based on jury selection in his 2005 murder trial.

His attorney, public defender Valerie Leftwich, said she would file an appeal with the Missouri Supreme Court. Leftwich did not represent Ferguson during his trial.

Ferguson's appeal states that an unusual Lincoln County policy allowing potential jurors to opt of service by performing six hours of community service denied him his right to a jury composed of a random cross-section of the population.

Cole County Circuit Judge Richard Callahan had previously rejected the appeal in a Jan. 9 ruling. Although the policy seemed at odds with Missouri law, he wrote, it did not deny Ferguson a fair trial because only 13 of the 848 potential jurors chose the community service option.

Ferguson, who is serving a 40-year sentence, was convicted of second-degree murder and first-degree robbery in connection with the 2001 killing of Columbia Daily Tribune sports editor Kent Heitholt.

Since Ferguson's conviction, he has maintained that he is innocent and has filed a number of appeals. He is awaiting a ruling from Boone County Circuit Judge Jodie Asel in a separate appeal claiming ineffective assistance of counsel by his attorneys at the original trial.

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