Ryan Ferguson Released From Prison; Appeals Court Throws Out 2005 Murder Conviction

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Ryan Ferguson was released from custody Tuesday night, having spent nearly 10 years behind bars for a murder he maintains he did not commit.

His release came after his 2005 conviction was thrown out on appeal and Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster announced he will not retry Ferguson.

Last week, an appeals court dismissed the verdict that sent Ferguson to prison for the murder of Columbia Daily Tribune sports editor Kent Heitholt.

The appeals court ruled that Boone County prosecutors violated federal law by failing to share several pieces of evidence with Ferguson's defense at trial.

Ryan Ferguson said his fight for justice "begins and ends with my parents." He said, "They've been there since day one. They believed in me."

"They've taken the time to look at all the facts, and they have been fighting nonstop. That includes my sister as well. My whole family. They have been incredible."

"Without them I know that it would have been very difficult for me to have hope and have faith in the process and to be there when Kathleen came along."

Kathleen would be Kathleen Zeller, his attorney, who his father said led the "army" it took to overcome the adversity his son faced in his quest for freedom.

Zeller doggedly led the charge to reopen, reinvestigate and publicize the case, which may have also played a role in officials' choice not to retry it.

Ryan Ferguson was arrested for Heitholt's 2001 murder in 2004 after a friend, Chuck Erickson, told police he and Ferguson committed the crime.

But Erickson struggled with important details when being interrogated by police and later recanted his trial testimony that implicated Ryan Ferguson.

A witness who testified that he saw Ryan at the scene also later recanted. Hair, fingerprints and footprints were found at the scene; none matched Ferguson.

So what's on the horizon for Ferguson for his first days as a free man? He said he needs to do basic things "that people overlook on a daily basis."