Ryan Ferguson’s appeal denied

My blog stats are showing that most of my random hits are from people searching for information about Ryan Ferguson’s appeals. As a blogger and a thinking human being, I have a very strong opinion about Ryan’s conviction. As a journalist who once covered the story, I feel a small nagging to remain neutral in my writing lest I ever have a chance to cover new developments for a news organization. That being said, I want to help anyone reading this blog who wants to know what’s happening with Ryan Ferguson.

If you need the backstory, check my older post. Another good link I’ve found is this magazine story– it gives an interesting and fairly complete recounting of Kent Heitholt’s murder, Chuck Erickson’s muddled confession, and Ryan Ferguson’s conviction despite all the contradictions and lack of evidence against him.

Here’s the latest news I could find on Ryan’s appeals:

January 9, 2009- Judge Richard Callahan denied Ferguson’s appeal based on improper jury selection. This appeal claimed that the jury selection wasn’t fair because Lincoln County allowed potential jurors to get out of serving by doing community service, preventing the jury from being a fair random sample of the population. Callahan thought the jury selection was fair. Ruling in favor of the appeal could have unleashed a plethora of appeals from cases decided in that county based on improper juror selection- so this ruling is in the favor of overall damage control. Read the Tribune story here.

Judge Jodie Asel has yet to rule on Ferguson’s civil appeal. It claims that former prosecutor Kevin Crane (now a judge) withheld exculpatory evidence from the defense during the murder trial in 2005. This would mean that Crane had evidence that would have helped Ryan’s defense, and illegally kept the information from Ryan’s lawyers.  Asel said she wouldn’t announce her decision until after Callahan’s ruling. *See my comment below for more information on this appeal (the exculpatory evidence as well as Ryan’s claim of ineffective assistance of counsel).

That’s all I can find for now. I will continue to post updates as I find them. Please feel free to comment with opinions or share any relevent info/links you’ve come across.


About Nicole

Daughter of God, wife, mother, volunteer youth leader, substitute teacher, aspiring writer, rabbit owner, nature lover. These are some of my titles.
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42 Responses to Ryan Ferguson’s appeal denied

  1. thebiglaskowsky says:

    Do you know what the exculpatory evidence is? And if it’s found to be legit (and illegally withheld) what would happen to the prosecutor from the 2005 trial? At least 40 years if you ask me, since that’s what ryan was sentenced. Seems fair right? Probably wont happen though… I get so pissed off every time I hear about how this kid got shafted and that common sense has failed so tragically. And the system takes so long to accomplish anything, almost 5 years of his life have been taken from him. The real shame about all of this is that even if Ryan doesn’t get out of prison until 36 years from now, he’ll be thrown right back in after he brutally murders Charles Erickson for destroying his life. 15 years is a long time for Charles to find a good hiding place, but I don’t think it’s long enough. Vengeance is nigh Charles, you’ll get what’s coming to you, even if it takes 36 years… Haha, maybe I shouldn’t say things like that. But wouldn’t it make an awesome movie? Kinda like shawshank redemption where Tim Robbins (can’t remember his name in the movie) exacts his revenge on the warden and escapes to freedom. Anyway, now I’m just rambling.

  2. FoolsGold says:

    Neutrality? I don’t think a journalist should ever serve up “pablum”.

    The crime: I’ve often felt a coworker would be most able to approach someone at that time of night, particularly since there some indications that the initial attack was as the victim was entering his car, however, it may simply be a question of vigilance. Some people may be hulking ex-athletes but that doesn’t mean they are alert to danger particularly when they are on familiar turf.
    The problem is that any coworker would have had a zillion ways to arrange a better time and place. Just about anyone on the paper would know that a dozen people would be leaving through those doors since all the computer terminals were automatically powered down at about that time.

    So I think it was a violent criminal and not some college kids who later wandered by, discovered the corpse and then went to their dorm rooms because they sensibly knew not to get involved.

    It certainly was not Ryan Ferguson or Chuck Erickson! The cops had a case that was bringing them bad publicity. The DA had an opportunity for a feather in his cap!

  3. FoolsGold says:

    As to the appeal on the jury issue: The decision may have spoken of timeliness and minimal impact but I’m sure there was an awareness of the number of similarly situated defendants.

    As to the appeal relating to representation and prosecutorial abuse, it seems the judge was quick to try to duck the issues by needlessly papering the file with a notice of intent to defer to the proceedings in Cole County concerning the jury issue. I think the Judge wants to avoid that hot potatoe on her dockett.

  4. Nicole says:

    As to the exculpatory evidence:

    1. Police interviewed a man in prison who reported to them and to his lawyer that he knew who killed the reporter because the murderer had told him that he did it. The police told the man his story didn’t match their investigation and never filed a report or told the defense about it. The defense therefore was never able to investigate the possibility that this man was the true killer- obviously a pretty material bit of information.

    2. Shawna Ornt- the cleaning lady who saw two men by Heitholt’s body the night of the murder- told the prosecuting attorney repeatedly that Ryan and Chuck were not the men she saw at the Tribune. She was used as a witness for the prosecution, but they never asked her to identify Ryan in the courtroom as one of the men she’d seen (because she told them in advance she wouldn’t do it.) The defense never knew about this, so neither did the jury. That’s blatantly withholding important evidence- she was one of the only witnesses to the murderers and she said it wasn’t Ryan and Chuck.

    In the same appeal, Ryan is claiming ineffective assistance of counsel based on very damaging mistakes made by his original defense attorneys. Some of their mistakes:

    1. They failed to subpoena the police officer who’s dog tracked a scent trail of the killers (going the exact opposite direction of where Chuck Erickson claimed they went.) This would have discredited Erickson as a witness, effectively eliminating any case against Ryan.

    2. They also failed to use Dallas Mallory, who Erickson claimed they talked to after the murder, and who made a sworn affidavit that he didn’t see them. Mallory was actually in the courtroom, but the defense never called him to the stand.

    3. They didn’t talk to the cleaning lady themselves to find out she couldn’t identify Ryan.

    4. They didn’t provide character witnesses to discredit Erickson for his drug and alcohol abuse and reputation for telling wild stories. They didn’t provide character witnesses to show that Ryan was popular, well-adjusted, and well-behaved. The prosecution had no one to challenge them when they portrayed him as a coldblooded killer.

    5. They didn’t use the bouncer from the bar Erickson claimed they went back to after the morning, who would have testified that the bar had never been open past 1:30 (in accordance with city ordinance), and therefore Erickson’s story that they were there after 2 am was impossible.

    Those are just a few of the reasons listed in the appeal that Ryan Ferguson has the right to a retrial.

  5. Pingback: Ferguson Still Waiting « A wandering mind

  6. Lesley says:

    I’m just an English housewife who happened to catch the 48 Hours documentary on TV over here. I could not believe what I was seeing – how could this young man be convicted on such strange evidence? I’ve not been able to get the case out of my mind, and have been trying to find out all there is to know, and following the various appeals. I’m sure the same thing could probably happen here too, but it’s important that the people keep asking questions and bringing it to the forefront of public conciousness. I feel that it’s probably more of a political hot pototo now that the former detective is a judge, and the powers-that-be are not going to want to have to concede that they didn’t play fair at the original trial.

  7. Nicole says:

    I agree that judges are probably a lot less likely to find that Crane did anything wrong since he’s now a judge. We can only hope that the judge’s first priority is justice for the innocent and that public clamoring for fairness will keep our officials honest. I’m not a legal expert by any stretch, but I don’t believe there would be any actual legal repercussions for Crane at this point if a ruling of unfair trial is made. I could be incorrect on that though.

  8. Victoria says:

    Unlike most folks on this blog, I feel like these two are guilty as sin. I too watched 48 Hours on this story, more than once. I watched intently as the first guy told his story and I have read a lot about it since. He gave lots of information. Why would anyone tell such a story…giving up his life and all? Why would he do it? Ryan Ferguson seems like a pretty boy that’s always had his way, he’s a liar and he just sat and glared at his friend as he testified as to what they both had done. He will take the truth to his grave I bet. Alcohol and drugs added fuel to the fire. These two teenagers didn’t think they would get caught. How sad for the victims family. To loose such a beloved father, husband, friend, etc.

  9. FoolsGold says:

    >Why would anyone tell such a story…
    >giving up his life and all? Why would he do it?
    I don’t know. Perhaps it was for the exact same reason Chuck Erickson lied about the jail cell vandalism that he in fact played no role in whatsoever, yet willingly confessed to.
    Do you think he lied in each these two incidents for the same reason or for different reasons?

    By the way, the jury does not have to find out WHY Chuck Erickson lied, only that he did lie.
    Unfortunately, the juror actually believed that demented twerp.

  10. amanda says:

    Hello. I watched a show about this trial last night and just had to look up the story today. I was very much hoping that Ryan’s family had been able to get him an appeal and a new trial. The conviction the first time as far as I am concerned was just baseless when it was so obvious from the information provided that the police had just latched onto these two boys because they so desperately wanted the case solved that they couldn’t see that the one confessing ( Chuck ) I’m pretty sure had some kind of mental illness. I am a registered nurse, and if you work in the health care field you are aware of the fact that most mental illnesses start presenting in the late teens or early twenties, he seemed to be having delusions. Schizophrenia maybe? I am not sure really, but it at least should have been looked into. The poor guy went to talk to the police in a terrible state of mind, and they told him how he killed someone because he sure didn’t seem to know, heck, he didn’t even know where he did it. I am just so saddened these kinds of failures take place in our legal system, and that these two young men, one who probably needs some psychiatric help, and one who probably had a very bright future ( we are approximately the same age so that makes it hit home a little more for me I suppose) ahead of him, just ripped away with so little care it seemed to me. Police work needs to be so very diligent. You know, when it comes to health care and policemen, we really can never take our jobs too seriously, because peoples’ lives really are in our hands, peoples’ everything, the most important people in their world, so you have to really, really, know before you say ” I am sure without a doubt”, or “Yes, this is what it is”. I certainly wouldn’t feel of a lump on a womans breast and say, “Ya know, you smoke cigarettes, you’re in your 40’s, you’re not breast-feeding, that’s cancer!” I feel like it was kinda rushing it to just take someone’s word for it and not have any backing evidence, even if Chuck said he did it, Ryan didn’t, so you still have to prove him guilty, and I’m sorry but you really didn’t, so do us all a favor and let the innocent man go!!!!

  11. t.d.a.f says:

    i think it wasnt neither of them and that chuck belived he did it but he really was never there and it was someone else because nothing linked chuck or ryan to the murder

  12. t.d.a.f says:

    i think it wasnt neither of them and it was someoen else there is no evidence to link them to the murder

  13. peace2u says:

    I recently saw this case on 48 hours. I was so enraged by the whole case. I got an eerie feeling in my stomach and had to research it for myself.
    After reading through page after page information and watching numerous videos it is clear that something is very wrong here. No murder weapon, no physical evidence, nothing to support that ryan commited this crime. In reality there are facts that prove Ryans innocence that were never even used. There was no subpoena for the dog track scent that was picked up, and the bouncer at the club wasn’t icluded. The cell phone records of Ryans sprint bill not even considered.
    Furthermore, Chuck lacks credibility. He is obviously an troubled man with a past of lies and made up stories. A person that wants attention on him. Watching the interragation videos it is clear that he knew no details of that night until he was spoon fed them by the police. And even then, Chucks story has changed multiple times. The janitor that changed his story of not being able to recognize the men in the parking lot to suddenly remembering Ryans and chucks faces had a shady past.
    So why and how does this happen? An innocent man is in jail for 40 years with no physical evidence and actual facts that prove that he didn’t commit this crime? I blame society. What happens when an innocent man dies? A good father and coworker? People get angry. People want answers. Police want to “solve the case.” They had no leads until Chucks vivid dream (without details and story flaws if I may add) and once they had his story in their hands the police ran with it. We all want justice espcially for murder of a good man, and it seems that in several cases that I have looked at including this one, the need for justice blinds people, so they dismiss facts and don’t do enough research in finding the killer. It seems to me that it is human nature to want justice for murder and that is great, but its not real justice if you ruin an innocent mans life. How can the police and jury be at peace knowing all that they know about this case and not looking at the facts. It’s like people wanted closure on this case, so they let there emotions get the best of them. They want someone to be punished for the crime and forget about the facts.
    Also, whether you believe ryan fergusons innocence or not you have to admidt he never recieved a fair trial. Not all facts were represented, stories were changed and many of the jury members themselves said they had already made up their mind before the case ended. Ryan Ferguson deserves a fair trail. He did not get one.
    I pray for Chuck. Maybe someday he will come foreward with the truth. God knows what happened that night. It’s wrong for an innocent man to be murdered but it’s also wrong for an innocent man to go to jail for it.

  14. pdxmike says:

    I too watched Ryan’s story on 48 Hours. Everything was wrong about this conviction. I wonder why the boys weren’t given a lie detector exam?

    The TV show was very disturbing. The postmortem with the jury was amazing… scary. The question that they asked themselves about why would he confess to a crime he didn’t do was especially vexing.

  15. Puzzled says:

    Just watched the 48 Hours episode last night and can’t stop thinkin about this kid. Most disturbing was the attitude of the jurors, two of which basically said their minds were made up after hearing Chuck’s ‘confession’.

    I know it’s difficult, but in this day and age surely rational people can understand that there are plenty of people who really aren’t rational… that some people are just wired wrong and have chemical imbalances that would make them do something that very few others would do – like confess to a crime they didn’t commit.

    Is that so difficult to comprehend?

    As for physical evidence… with a crime scene so bloody, how did these two novices manage to walk away with no blood evidence on them? How was their no blood evidence in Ryan’s car? People who plan out murders don’t get away so cleanly, but these two drunken teenagers did it on the fly? Really? I mean somebody really thinks that’s possible?

    And what about the hair in the victim’s hand? Check your hand right now. I’m gonna guess there’s no hair in it. It stands to reason that the hair was from an attacker and, here’s the key point, no one else. So Ryan and Chuck attack this guy but he ends up with someone else’s hair in his hand? Are you kidding me? What kind of coincidence is that?

    The problem is that Chuck’s pathology happens to make him a very convincing witness. A jury has to be made aware of that up front and then have the presence of mind to actually hear what the defense has to say.

    This whole thing is crap. Everyone involved in the prosecution of this kid should be ashamed, including the jury.

  16. Sharon says:

    I too just watched the “48 Hours” episode and like so many others commenting above, am outraged and dumbfounded by the inexplicably senseless verdict. The jury’s close-mindedness and myopia were truly frightening. That verdict, highjacked by a stupid, ignorant certainty, screams miscarriage of justice.
    Studies show that human memory is highly complex, multidimensional, impressionable, mutable, subjective and unreliable. In fact, people report actually “seeing” certain incidents (such as a staged “bear attack”) although researchers set the scene and observers’ position such that visibility was physically impossible. I have the book written by Elizabeth Loftus, an expert witness for Ryan’s defense, discrediting the validity of much “eye-witness” recall and testimony as more a “minds-eye” version of events. Perhaps if scads of physical evidence had linked the boys to the crime, such dismissal by the jury of expert testimony based on scientific research (and common sense), rationally and reasonably explaining Chuck’s irrational act of self-incrimination, would be understandable. BUT THERE WAS NONE!!! ZERO!!!
    Add in the contrast between the two police interview tapes; the changed recollection/testimony of Chuck; the janitor and the boys’ friend bullied into “admitting” that he remembers seeing the boys after the murder back in the bar, which legally could not have still been open; Chuck’s troubled substance abuse history; the span of two years before Chuck “dreamed” of his and Ryan’s involvement; there should have been a “hung” jury-not meaning a jury that could not reach a verdict, but literally a jury hung by a noose from the gallows for their malfeasance.
    I have a 23 year-old son who resembles Ryan Ferguson. I cannot imagine the helpless horror that his parents and sister must daily, sometimes hourly feel. Ryan Ferguson must have a new trial, or a pardon or commutation of his sentence. We should all do a small part to contribute to this end.
    I am a conservative, “law and order” sort of person. I am currently attending a second-degree master’s nursing program at the University of Virginia. Long before, I was an Assistant Public Defender and a law clerk in the San Diego District Attorney’s Office. Our liberty depends upon the integrity and effectiveness of our legal system, representing the awesome power of the State and government. Our framers explicitly intended that it be better for a thousand guilty men to go free, than an innocent man be imprisoned. Set Ryan Ferguson free!!!

  17. Pingback: Erickson recants – Ferguson could go free « A wandering mind

  18. ostergaard says:

    I have written “The Mother of a Delusional Schizophrenic Speaks Out” The symptoms are too striking to ignore.

    Please go to: http://msostergaard.wordpress.com

  19. Nicole says:

    Hi, thank you for sharing. If you would like to, please comment and post your link on one of my more recent posts, either




    I can post them, but I think it will be good if the comment is coming from the source and doesn’t look like another of the many links I’ve dug up. I always appreciate other people’s input.

  20. sean says:

    There was no blood in the car cause the police checked 2 years later.get a clue people these 2 were guilty.

  21. Patricia says:

    Ever watch Forensic Files, Sean? Luminol glows in the dark. This chemiluminescent compound is an essential part of crime scene investigation as it detects blood, even invisible blood. They can detect blood twenty years after the fact. If there were blood in that boys car, they would have found it. Two years or twenty years, they would have found blood.

  22. Paulette Jacobs says:

    I don’t see how the jury convicted Ryan. That doesn’t mean he didn’t do it but they just didn’t seem to have anything but Chuck’s testimony. Now that is scary. I hope Ryan get’s a retrial and soon.

  23. A. Knight says:


    This should have never even been denied. Ryan Ferguson Is innocent. So is chuck. I do really believe that chuck was coached by the cops and because he may have been threatened or worried about a long sentence he is willing to say what the cops want him to say.
    They both need to be released. They really did not commit the crime. Someone else did. Who di. Don’t know but it sure was not ryan and chuck. Chuck may need to go for psychologial evaluation to help him with the program mode thing. However. He is a good kid. And did not commit this crime.

  24. A. Knight says:


    This should have never even been denied. Ryan Ferguson Is innocent. So is chuck. I do really believe that chuck was coached by the cops and because he may have been threatened or worried about a long sentence he is willing to say what the cops want him to say.
    They both need to be released. They really did not commit the crime. Someone else did. Who di. Don’t know but it sure was not ryan and chuck. Chuck may need to go for psychologial evaluation to help him with the program mode thing. However. He is a good kid. And did not commit this crime.

  25. Linda says:

    I have to make a comment about this case because it is so obviously an injustice to Ryan Ferguson. I think that he got a raw deal by even being found guilty nevermind giving him a sentence of 40 years. What’s up people?? Nobody in their right mind would believe that he did this crime, as for Chuck I really don’t know what’s up with him. He’s just “out to lunch”. I watched 48 hours and couldn’t believe that anyone would believe the story that Chuck told on the stand. It just blows my mind and I say put it in God’s hands because the system has screwed up big time on this one. My prayers go out to you Ryan.

  26. piggyy says:

    Hey Nikki, it’s Ryan. Do you think you could send me the Ferguson file? I might write a piece about his father. The shipping address is 400 S. Main St. Monmouth IL 61462. It would be a massive help to me.

  27. FleaStiff says:

    >”Our liberty depends upon the integrity and effectiveness of our legal system …”

    Well, Sharon, you are quite correct but please bear in mind that the police interrogators did not suddenly become incompetent at interrogation nor did the DA suddenly become lacking in skills regarding analysis of the evidence.
    The Last Person Known to have had contact with the decedent was interviewed by telephone, thus losing all opportunity for the police to observe scratches or bruises. Do you really think the police suddenly became unwise or do you think perhaps that they knew what they were doing?

    The current motions before the court offer some hope for justice despite the endless delays imposed by the state.

  28. Nicole says:

    Ryan, I don’t have the file with me in Colorado. I asked my mom to look for it where I thought it would be but she couldn’t find it. I’ll be back in Missouri in a few weeks and should be able to find it then if it’s not too late for you. Sorry.

  29. piggyy says:

    They ended up getting someone closer to Columbia to write the article, which is a bummer because I think I could have done I good job. I’d still like to have the file though if you don’t think you’ll ever need it, but there’s no hurry.

  30. FleaStiff says:

    Evidentiary Hearing will be held in Cole County on the Erickson Recantation during civil deposition. Atleast its not Broome County, but don’t look for stellar developments. Erickson recanted his lies about Ferguson but not his lies about himself. Erickson wasn’t there and didn’t do it.

    No word on the motion for TouchDNA processing yet.

  31. Nicole says:

    Thanks for the update.

  32. FleaStiff says:

    Appeal Denied.
    Petition for Habeas Corpus writ may be filed in Cole County at a later date.

  33. msdestyni says:

    Victoria states that Ryan “glared” at Chuck during his testimony…..therefore she feels this lends some creedence to his “guilt”. Let me ask you this Victoria……..

    Let’s say you and a friend were shopping. Two years later your friend has a “dream” that you two committed a murder that happened nearby. Now your friend is in court testifying that YOU were involved in a murder that you are very well aware you DID NOT commit.

    “Are you going to glare at her when she tells the court her preposterous story”? I bet you would!

    “Would that be an action you would take if you were innocent”? I bet it is!

  34. FleaStiff says:

    Blood stains, dna, footprints, fingerprints, demeanor that night, slight physical build versus big, strong athletic victim, … do these things matter? No. A glare while in the courtroom is considered sufficient evidence to conclude that Chuck the Confessor, who had every fact spoonfed to him by the police, is telling the truth.

  35. Heather says:

    I think this guy Ryan is nothing short of being a state hostage. You could imagine this happening to someone in some Taliban region of Afghanistan but it happened and is happening in America. The longer this goes on the more the shame that will be heaped on the system and more importantly a life will be destroyed.

  36. CINDY says:

    I don’t know if they are innocent, but certainly, from what has been published, can’t see anything that a jury could use to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that they did do this. This guy is lucky he’s good looking, white, and has a family interested in him. I feel sorry for the other poor bastards in this jurisdiction.

  37. lyn7721 says:

    I was shocked that anyone could put Ryan in prison for 40years and sleep at night but then I started reading comments from the few people who believe he should have been convicted and I realized there are just a lot of ridiculously stupid people in the world. How ignorant, old-fashioned & uneducated people sound when they say things like I “feel” like they did it, or ‘why would Chuck lie” or they make comments about whose facial expression they didn’t like. We might as well dunk people in water to see if they float and decide their fate that way.

    None of this is evidence. How can anyone let it come from their mouth that they are going to ignore every bit of real evidence and any academic reasoning behind this and go with…a “feeling” they have. Prison isn’t a joke. There is a boy who is losing years of his life and possibly murderers running around loose because people don’t like his facial expressions? As someone else said this sounds like a story from Afghanistan. In the US people are supposed to be innocent until the state proves them guilty and no one can deny that the state didn’t prove that regardless of what their feelings tell them!

    The fact that so many people think they could take away a person’s life based on nothing is appalling. What happened to science, psychology, forensics and logic? It’s really logical to people that two drunk teens committed a bloody gruesome murder on a whim and left zero evidence?

    I feel terrible for the Ferguson family, and annoyed that I gave human beings too much credit. It’s just scary to believe that people still think this way.

  38. FoolsGold says:

    Ryan Ferguson filed his write of Habeas Corpus which is an extraordinary writ addressed to the Custodian detaining him and alleges the detention to be unlawful. In addition to the prosecutorial misconduct that is alleged regarding presenting to the jury the petition makes the first formal assertion that co-worker Michael Boyd, a large and powerful man and the last person known to have seen Kent Heitholt is the murderer. Michael Boyd lied several times as to which car he drove that night, where he parked it, how many times that night he was present at the crime scene and the nature of his relationship with the victim. Its also alleged in the petition that rather than two slim youths wielding a tire iron, it was Michael Boyd who rammed Kent Heitholt’s head against the rear tire hub of his automobile and then later made use of his brother’s business connections to alter the VIN number records and permanently dispose of the vehicle. The day after the murder Boyd was interviewed by telephone so no photographs were ever taken of his face and hands.

  39. FoolsGold says:

    Note: 48Hours will air an updated and revised version of their program in March 2011. The revised program will focus on prosecutorial misconduct of Cane, who is now a judge.

  40. Tom Liston Kingston Ont Canada says:

    This is jan 27 2013. Why is there no update to the appeal of Ryan.s murder conviction? I have looked through the computer with no success. What is the secret? Why is there no info?

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