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Man released from prison after appeals court ruling

The notion of a person being innocent before being proven guilty is a bedrock principle of our legal system. However, it sometimes is lost (or ignored) when people are connected to heinous and senseless crimes. Because of this, it is not uncommon for people to be arrested, charged and eventually convicted of crimes they did not commit. While these stories are somewhat rare, they are certainly newsworthy events when they become public.

Such is the case for Ryan Ferguson, who was sentenced in 2005 after being convicted for the murder of Kent Heitholt. Ferguson steadfastly maintained his innocence, and years of appeals and further investigations resulted in a 2012 hearing before an appeals court where his lawyers insisted that he was not given a fair trial. Apparently, his conviction was supported on testimony that was later proven false. The witnesses who testified that Ferguson murdered his alleged victim recanted their testimony.

First, Chuck Erickson, who claimed that he and Ferguson were involved in the killing, recanted his testimony. He explained that he was a heavy drinker and drug user at that time, and could not be sure of Ferguson’s involvement in the crime, much less his own. Second, Jerry Trump, a janitor who testified to seeing Ferguson and Erickson in a parking lot close to the time of the murder, recanted his testimony as well.

Ferguson spent ten years behind bars overall based on accounts that were essentially lies. Nevertheless, it was his attorneys who worked to secure his release. The story exemplifies the importance of having legal counsel when one is accused of a crime.

Source: ABC News.com, “Mo. Man freed after ten years in prison,” David A. Lieb, November 12, 2013

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