Rights violated in murder case, prisoner said

Ferguson stated his defense counsel was inadequate.


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A man convicted of the 2001 murder of the Columbia Daily Tribune sports editor has filed a motion for a hearing.

In a motion filed Monday, Ryan Ferguson stated his rights were violated in the original trial.

“Ryan was unable to obtain a fair trial because of a violation of exculpatory evidence,” Bill Ferguson, his father, said.

The motion states Shawna Ornt, a witness in the trial, told Prosecuting Attorney Kevin Crane that Ryan Ferguson was not one of the men she saw in the Tribune’s parking lot the night Kent Heitholt was killed. It states Crane never disclosed this information to defense counsel.

Prosecutors are responsible for disclosing any exculpatory or impeaching evidence to defense counsel.

“Shawna Ornt spoke with prosecutors before the trial, and prosecutors didn’t tell the defense,” Bill Ferguson said.

Kevin Crane, prosecuting attorney at the time, said all information was disclosed to the defense.

Ornt never said she knew Ryan Ferguson was not in the parking lot, Crane said.

“Everything we had was given to the defense,” Crane said.

Crane is now a circuit court judge.

He said he could not comment on Ferguson’s case because of his position as a judge and because he might be asked to testify, but he told The Maneater in a previous report he thinks every person he’s prosecuted as the district attorney is guilty.

In addition to claiming a violation of exculpatory evidence, Ferguson is claiming ineffective assistance of counsel.

“Ryan’s counsel was ineffective in failing to investigate, develop and introduce evidence to show his innocence, which impeached Chuck Erickson’s testimony,” stated the documents.

In his testimony, Erickson told police he and Ferguson went west across Providence Road and back north across Broadway to By George Nightclub after they left the Tribune building. In the motion, Ferguson said, if defense counsel had subpoenaed Columbia Police Officer Todd Alber as a witness, he would have told the court the K-9 unit used on the night of the murder followed a different path that ended at McDavid Hall.

In addition, Ferguson said an example of the ineffective assistance of counsel was that the defense counsel did not bring Erickson’s mental health into evidence at the trial.

It stated Erickson was diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression and post-traumatic stress syndrome while in Boone County Jail. At his deposition, Erickson testified he did not remember the events of the night of the murder and was not sure if he had committed the murder.

Filing these documents is the next step in Ferguson’s attempt to get a new trial.

“The state has to review the complaint, which could take two to three months, then there will be a hearing before a judge, Ryan’s attorney and the state,” Ferguson said.

Judge Jodie Asel is reviewing the case. Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Stephanie Morrell and Prosecuting Attorney Dan Knight could not be reached for comment.

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