Incarcerated for almost a decade, 29-year-old Ryan Ferguson was released this week, Tuesday, November 12, when the Missouri attorney general decided to not pursue a new trial against him. Ferguson had been convicted of the 2001 robbery and murder of a Columbia Daily Tribune sports editor based mainly on the testimony of two witnesses. One of the witnesses against Ferguson was his classmate Chuck Erickson, who years after the crime was committed had testified that he remembered the crime in his dreams. As part of a 25-year sentence plea deal, Erickson testified that he and Ferguson had robbed and killed the editor. Ferguson was sentenced in 2005 to 40 years in prison.
Last year in a court hearing, Erickson admitted to abusing drugs and alcohol and to having a spotty memory. He said that law enforcement and news stories influenced him to think that he was actually guilty, but now, Erickson doubts whether he actually committed anything, and he testified that he was certain Ferguson was innocent. The other witness in the case also went back on his testimony, whereas he had originally said he saw Ferguson and Erickson at the scene of the crime.
These were the only two witnesses in the case, and they recanted. There was also no physical evidence against either man accused. But Ferguson was released on the basis that an appellate court decided that the prosecution kept back evidence from the defense team, thus denying Ferguson a fair trial. All three judges on the appeal court panel agreed to overturn Ferguson's conviction.
Even after the overturned conviction, Ferguson had to wait to see if he would be retried. This Tuesday, he initially thought that he was being transferred to solitary confinement, or even facing another murder trial. Instead, he was driven away from jail by his family as a free man.
Soon after, he was in front of cameras, thanking his family, lawyers, and friends. "To get arrested and to get charged for a crime you didn't commit is incredibly easy, and you lose your life very fast. But to get out of prison, it takes an army."
If you face an undeserved criminal charge, then it is important to understand that innocence is not an automatic defense. There are too many cases where people are denied their right to a fair trial and are wrongly convicted. You cannot afford the consequences of an undeserved conviction; even after serving a sentence, the conviction could haunt you the rest of your life through a tainted personal record. At the Sumner Law Group, LLC, we are fiercely committed to defending our clients' rights.
Contact our firm today to learn how a St. Louis criminal defense lawyer can provide the aggressive legal defense that you deserve.