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Columbia Missourian

GUEST COMMENTARY: Evidence lacking in Ryan Ferguson conviction

By Pat Reynolds
April 3, 2013 | 3:30 p.m. CDT

My opinions on the Ryan Ferguson case reflect the perspective of someone living in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., whose information about the case has come from Dateline and 48 Hours episodes and information on the Internet.

In my opinion, the initial interrogation tapes of Chuck Erickson make clear he is a disturbed person who knew nothing about the details of the case and was fed information by the prosecution that supported the prosecution’s position. That information was used in court against Ryan Ferguson. If those tapes had been available to the jury, I do not see how Ryan Ferguson could have been convicted. In a retrial they would be part of the evidence supporting Ryan.

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The decision by Judge Daniel Green denying a new trial for Ryan is illustrative of problems with the state’s case. He characterizes the recantation of the testimony of Chuck Erickson as “not credible.” What is not credible is the original trial testimony of Mr. Erickson that reflects a classic example of police coercion. The judge goes on to say the testimony of Jerry Trump is not “material.” It seems to me, the testimony of Mr. Trump is critical to the prosecution given the coerced testimony of Chuck Erickson. Mr. Trump’s recantation leaves the case with no credible witness.

The Judge Green decision was handed down on Oct. 31, 2012, the 11th anniversary of the death of Kent Heitholt. Judge Green had promised a quick decision but waited several months apparently for this anniversary. What inappropriate grandstanding! Is Judge Green producing a TV show or presiding over a court of law?

Given the overwhelming evidence of the innocence of Ryan Ferguson, I do not understand why at least some members of the Kent Heitholt family are not publicly supporting Ryan. Victim's family members often cannot get beyond their own pain and loss to look objectively at the facts. As long as someone is convicted for the crime against their family member, they do not question if the person convicted is truly guilty or not.

That is not always the case. Family members of two of the children killed (three 8-year-old boys) in the West Memphis, Ark., Three case stepped forward to support the three men convicted of that crime. The men were released in 2011 after 18 years in jail.

The case against the West Memphis Three suffered from many of the same problems as the Ryan Ferguson case: witness manipulation and intimidation, recanted testimony, police errors, experts challenging the police interpretation of events, physical evidence at the scene — in Ryan’s case: fingerprints, a hair sample, and blood — belonging neither to the victim nor to the suspects, and judicial decisions upholding the conviction(s) irrespective of the merits of the evidence presented.

Ryan Ferguson has received terrible treatment from the legal system of the state of Missouri. Missouri citizens should be demanding Ryan’s release, that prosecutors start searching FBI and other files for DNA and other matches to find the murderer of Kent Heitholt, and that the prosecution team, in league with local judges, stop trying to protect their jobs and salvage their tarnished reputations and start doing their jobs and admitting their mistakes.

I hope and pray and have every confidence that the supreme court of Missouri will overturn the decisions of Judge Green.

Pat Reynolds a resident of Kensington, Md.