Thursday, November 14, 2013

Missouri man (Ryan Ferguson) freed after wrongful conviction based on shaky eyewitness testimony and "dreams"; apparently he was no where near the crime scene with no physical or DNA evidence

Multiple media outlets have reported the freeing of Ryan Ferguson, 29, who served nine years in prison for second degree murder of a sports editor, Kent Heitholt, in 2001.  Ferguson was arrested in 2004 after a “friend”, Chuck Erickson, told police in late 2003 that Ferguson had been with them when Kent was beaten to death in a robbery.  Erickson testified and later recanted.  But it is typically very difficult to overturn convictions even when a witness recants.  In this case, there were other matters that the prosecution withheld from the defense.  The CBS news story on the release is here and leads to another link giving the detailed back story.
What seems particularly galling is that perhaps neither young man was present at the scene of the murder.  No direct evidence was found.  Both had been at a bar illegally, drinking underage, and Erickson said he could not remember what he did that night when he woke up.  He became concerned when he saw a newspaper picture that looked like him at the scene two years later.  Apparently he had dreams about it.
The Daily Mail had written about the “dreams” in this account in June 2012, link here.   CBS have covered the case in a “48 Hours” story on December 27, 2008, specifically titled “Dream Killer”, as if a documentary film.  There was a supplement Feb. 23, 2013 called “The Accuser”.

There was also another CBS episode in Dec. 2012 sensationally called “Under a Killing Moon”.
In a few other cases, as reported on ABC 20-20 as with a case in Illinois, police have taken dream accounts seriously.
What seems so disturbing here is that Ferguson could have been convicted for the crime when he was nowhere near the scene, and when the “accomplice” wasn’t even sure that he was there but amplified the story to save his own skin.
Ferguson sounded quite articulate and forgiving in his television appearances. But he has lost ten years of his life because of something someone else did and has no college education. 
Lauren Effron and Dan Abrams have a similar story on ABC here and it was covered on Nightline Wednesday night.
Ryan Ferguson has a petition site, here
I sometimes write that there are no victims, only casualties.  But maybe this could happen to anybody.

The picture above is actually from Kansas (2006).    

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