COLUMBIA – The Missouri Supreme Court declined to hear Ryan Ferguson’s appeal based on a jury selection policy in his 2005 murder trial.
Ferguson’s appeal claimed that a Lincoln County policy allowing potential jurors to opt out of jury duty by performing six hours of community service prevented him from having a jury composed of a random cross-section of the population.
His attorney, public defender Valerie Leftwich, said she did not plan to try to raise the issue in federal court.
Cole County Circuit Judge Richard Callahan had already rejected the appeal in a Jan. 9 decision, and the Missouri Western District Court of Appeals declined to hear the appeal on March 31.
In his ruling, Callahan wrote that, although the jury selection policy seemed at odds with Missouri law, it did not deny Ferguson a fair trial because only 13 of the 848 potential jurors chose the community service option.
Callahan also rejected the appeal on procedural grounds, ruling that it was now too late to raise the jury selection issue. Though the Missouri Supreme Court did not issue a statement with its denial Tuesday, Leftwich speculated that the court may have accepted these procedural claims.
Ferguson, who is serving a 40-year sentence, has a separate appeal now being considered by Boone County Circuit Judge Jodie Asel claiming his original defense team was ineffective.
He 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 his conviction, Ferguson and his family have maintained his innocence.