COLUMBIA — Ryan Ferguson, convicted of the 2001 murder of Columbia Daily Tribune sports editor Kent Heitholt, can ask for another day in court.
On Monday, Missouri's Western District Court of Appeals granted Ferguson permission to ask for a hearing in Cole County in which he will seek a new trial. A previous Missourian story mistakenly reported that Ferguson had been granted the hearing.
The court said in its decision that Ferguson could not have been convicted without the testimony of his co-defendant, Charles Erickson.
In the 2005 trial, Erickson testified that he and Ferguson killed Heitholt in the parking lot of the Columbia Daily Tribune early in the morning of Nov. 1, 2001. But in November of last year, Erickson recanted, saying that while Ferguson was present, he alone strangled and beat Heitholt. Ferguson maintains he was never at the scene.
Ferguson's father, Bill Ferguson, is confident his son will get another trial.
"I am optimistic that with Erickson recanting and our new evidence that they will find him innocent of this horrific crime," he said.
Bill Ferguson said he believes neither his son nor Erickson were involved.
"Somebody's guilty of it, but I don't believe the two boys are," he said.
If Ryan Ferguson's request for a new hearing is granted, the hearing would be held in the Cole County Circuit Court. The court has jurisdiction over appeals filed from the Jefferson City Correctional Center, where Ryan Ferguson is incarcerated.
Bill Ferguson said his son's attorney, Kathleen Zellner, also has new witnesses and additional evidence that will serve to exonerate his son should the hearing be granted — including one witness who claims to have been at the scene around the time of the murder.