TODAY'S QUESTION: Should Ryan Ferguson receive a new trial?

Thursday, February 11, 2010 | 4:12 p.m. CST
In this videotaped sworn statement taken on Nov. 22 at Potosi Correctional Center, Charles Erickson says that he alone beat and strangled Kent Heitholt. Because of the large file size for this 12-minute video, it may take a while to load in your browser.

Following his 2005 trial, Ryan Ferguson was sent to prison with a 40-year sentence for the murder of Columbia Daily Tribune sports editor Kent Heitholt.

The prosecution's case against Ferguson centered on Chuck Erickson's confession and testimony. He had confessed to beating Heitholt with a tire tool and testified that Ferguson had strangled Heitholt to death.

In a statement that was made public Monday, Erickson says he acted alone in the murder.

Ferguson's lawyer, Kathleen Zellner, filed a motion asking the Missouri Court of Appeals for the Western District to send the case back to the trial court based on the new evidence. If the court denies the motion for reconsideration of the evidence, it could make a decision based on the previous evidence presented.

In the motion filed, Zellner notes the risk Erickson has created for himself as his recent statement violates his plea agreement requiring him to present the truth in his testimony against Ferguson. Ferguson has remained consistent in his denial of involvement in the crime since his arrest and has maintained that he was not at the scene of the crime.

In July 2008 Richard Leo, a false confessions expert, testified at a evidentiary hearing that Erickson's statements contained many signs of a persuaded false conviction.

Do you think that Ferguson should get a new trial? Do you think Erickson is telling the truth?

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Connie Halstead February 15, 2010 | 11:08 a.m.

Yes, there should be a new trial. The first one was a travesty and justice was not served.

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cherilyn williams February 15, 2010 | 2:40 p.m.

Do we even need to ask if Ryan deserves a new trial? In the 48 Hours program which outlined the whole case, it was unbelievable to see Erickson give incorrect details of how the victim was strangled, and then see his surprised and confused reaction when the police corrected him and filled in the blanks for him. He never was a reliable witness to begin with! And there were so many other obvious errors - how could someone commit such a violent crime, and have absolutely NO blood on them anywhere?!!! One juror was brave enough to admit that he had already made up his mind even before he heard all of the testimony! The original trial was a comedy of errors! In this community, it is understandable that many people only have sympathy for the victim and his family, while the Fergusons regularly deal with harsh comments and unfair treatment. Yes, the crime was horrible, but while we have compassion for the victim's family, we should have compassion for Ryan and his family too! We want to see someone pay for the horror that was done to an innocent victim, but the horrors of injustice and wrongful conviction are also a nightmare, and shouldn't be allowed in our society. We need to see that the real perpetrator goes to prison, and Ryan does not deserve to have to spend another day there. Let him out on bond while the courts settle all of the madness! Until we have justice for ALL, we really have no justice.

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Jeff Albright February 15, 2010 | 3:51 p.m.

I agree with Cherilyn. Read the narrarive on to get up to speed. Trump fingers Ferguson. Ornt is not called as a witness. Crane denies a hair was ever found in the victims hand. I read the narrative and was in disbelief.

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Mike LoConte February 15, 2010 | 4:10 p.m.

This whole trial was an injustice. Its sad this boy had to endure all this and waste so many years of his life. Its hard to believe this could actually happen in America. How its even been allowed to go on as long as it has, is outlandish. Let Ryan have his freedom.

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Shelly Walde February 15, 2010 | 5:10 p.m.

Yes I believe he should be allowed a new trial. No harm can come from it. If the jury still believes he is guilty they can speak to that. If the system does not want him to have a new trial, then it appears then are afraid of something. What? The truth? If a new trial brings the truth to the forefront, then that is what our justice system promises. Anyone in his shoes would ask for the same. He should not be denied a chance to finally have ALL of the facts presented. The facts will speak for themselves. Give the man the fair trial he deserves.

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cherilyn williams February 15, 2010 | 5:42 p.m.

Again, I shout YES, Ryan deserves a new trial! I honestly think that Erickson was lying then, and that he is lying now, and that neither he nor Ryan had anything to do with the crime. When you watch the video of his recent statement, there are still many details that he is confused about or doesn't remember clearly. He is confused, period! It is a travesty that anything that he ever said was used to convict Ryan, when he so obviously is a very troubled and confused individual. To think that a case could be built on what he felt or "dreamed" was true, is just crazy! Just consider the fact that he initially went voluntarily to police and divulged what he "believed" he and or Ryan did as he remembered it from a dream - who does that?!!!!

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Fran Pope February 15, 2010 | 7:11 p.m.

Fran Pope- Yes, I think Ryan should have a new trial. I have followed this case carefully and have been in disbelief that Ryan was convicted on the evidence, or lack thereof, presented. Surely this new information from Erickson is the final straw to Ryan getting a new trial and the release from prison that he derserves.

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Fran Pope February 15, 2010 | 7:47 p.m.

Bonnie Trickey

There is no doubt that Ryan should receive a new trial or be freed. This has been a huge travesty of Justice. There was no physical evidence, no eye witness, only a confession by a very troubled young man who was spoon fed evidence by the police dept. Do you really think 2 17 year old boys could commit this kind of crime and manage to destroy all evidence and leave no trace of DNA?

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Lisanne Franco February 15, 2010 | 10:10 p.m.

Yes, yes and yes. A new trial. Ryan Ferguson deserves justice.

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Denna Shipley February 16, 2010 | 9:18 a.m.

Yes. Ryan deserves a new trial. Good Luck.

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Marlin Frazee February 16, 2010 | 11:58 a.m.

Ryan absolutely deserves a new trial. I have never seen a case with more 'reasonable doubt'. Shame on the justice system in Columbia Missouri. Judge Asel's relationship with Kevin Crane, Roper's high bail amount, Crane lying to the jury, the jurors admitting they made their mind up before Ryan even took the stand or because of the look in Chuck's eyes! Good heavens! What a circus! Definitely - Ryan deserves a new trial at the VERY least.

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Jeff Albright February 16, 2010 | 1:01 p.m.

Yes, A new trial ASAP (yesterday).

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Bill Ferguson February 17, 2010 | 8:34 a.m.

Marlin Frazee February 16, 2010 | 11:58 a.m
Has presented many excellent reasons why Ryan should receive a new trial. There a many others as well

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Melissa April 20, 2010 | 10:37 a.m.

100% Yes. There is not 1 reason why he should not. This time with a jury that is actually in compliance and a judge that has no relationship with either party.

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Judith Roman April 25, 2010 | 6:03 p.m.

Although I've seen this episode twice, I do agree there was not much evidence and I'm pretty open-minded, but how are these two people linked together ? They were at the bar together that night, right? How can someone come up with such an outrageous story(Chuck) and there be no truth to it at all ? To be honest when Ryan was on the stand, his testimony was not very impressive. If you were truly innocent wouldn't you be crazy insane trying to prove it but he was so nonchalent. Maybe the whole incident just got way out of control so fast neither one got hit by it immediately.

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constance consola April 30, 2010 | 3:26 a.m.

OK so Ive read everyone's comments on here so ill just preface this with; I saw the 48hrs, got interested, did A LOT of reading on it,I will not say where I stand on this(although I am sure you can tell), am not part of the Ferguson family and do not live (or have ever lived in) MO. OK so 1st question being where was the follow up on Clarence Mabon (who was fingered by a buddy LONG before Erickson ever came forward)? And the follow up on Aaron J. Flynn/Keli Neimann, who the bloodhound led the officer too? Any info on either of these? I haven't found anything after the police report. Here's a link I found to a little info on Mabon but no follow up that I saw. BTW as of 2008 (I know that's 2 years ago but its all the info I found) Mabon's whereabouts were unknown, so that's reassuring!

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constance consola April 30, 2010 | 3:35 a.m.

Oh I should probably add I know that Mabon is black and the witness (Shawna Ornt) said it was a white male but, 1 she said she didn't see the other person & 2 they never confirmed that the person(s) that she saw were the ones that committed the crime or rather a person walking home (which is kinda what I thought about A. Flynn after reading the police report and time-line etc etc but that's just speculation).

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