It is a case that boggles the mind. After serving years in prison for murder, he always said he didn't commit, today ryan ferguson enjoyed his first full day of freedom. How did this bright-eyed... See More
It is a case that boggles the mind. After serving years in prison for murder, he always said he didn't commit, today ryan ferguson enjoyed his first full day of freedom. How did this bright-eyed college student end up losing nearly a decade of his life behind bars. We tracked done a juror who voted to convict him who now says he has a gut wrenching message to share. Here is "nightline's" dan abrahams. Reporter: Today, ryan ferguson woke up a free man. Having spent all most all of his 20s IN PRISON FOR A CRIME HE Always maintained he did not commit. just hugged my parents. Hung out with them for a while. I knew that I wanted to go to my favorite steakhouse. Steak and family the second you get out. Can't beat that. Reporter: Ferguson was convicted for the brutal murder of this beloved journalist in 2001. The crime scene outside the newspaper where he worked, littered with physical evidence, bloody footprints. Fingerprints and even hair. But none of it matched ryan. So how did he end up behind bars in the first place? It certainly wasn't what ryan told police when he was questioned. I am innocent. You are innocent of killing this guy. I am innocent of being, I am not involved in this in any way. Reporter: Again and again. He denied knowing anything about the murder. That's exactly what I said to you earlier, man. I didn't, oh, my god. Trying to get me admit to something that I didn't do. Reporter: Ryan spoke to us from prison shortly before his release. You know, I did everything i could to help them. I had nothing to hide. I want to show them that, you know I got nothing to do with this. Look at the facts. Let me go. I got midterms to study for. Not fact or fiction. It is developing the case against you. Reporter: The case was built almost entirely on the testimony of two alleged eyewitnesses -- charles eriksson, a childhood friend of ryan's. Came forward two years after the murder, claiming he had dreamlike visions that he and ryan committed the krcrime together. But he deidn't seem to know details. Yeah. But you don't know what it was? No. Reporter: In his trial testimony however, he seemed to remember everything. He was down here. He had a belt, he had his, his foot on his back on the victim's back. He was pulling up on the felt. A second witness, identified ferguson as one of two men he saw in the parking lot after the murder. Would you point to the individual or individuals, please. Yes. Reporter: It was enough for a jury to convict. We the jury, find that the defendant, ryan ferguson, guilty of murder in the second degree. Reporter: Tonight we spoke by phone to a member of the jury who asked that we not show his picture or reveal his name. Why did the jury decide to convict ryan ferguson. Probably for me, the two witnesses, two eyewitnesses, eriksson, pulled weight in our mind. Was it unanimous on the jury? Pretty well. Everybody had the same feeling. Because of mr. Eriksson and mr. Trump. Yes he was guilty. It also turns out the prosecution withheld crucial information. Ryan's new lawyer is kathleen zelner. State your name for the record. Reporter: Like the circumstances surrounding janitor's jerry trumping ability to identify ryan. A conversation with trump's wife that would have undermined his testimony. The other janitor learned that the two men are the scene were not ferguson and eriksson. I said it wasn't them. I told my boyfriend the I told everybody I knew. The wasn't them? Yeah. Reporter: There were witnesses who could have backed up ryan's account when he left the bar that night as well. There was a witness saw them at this point here. Saw them, walked to the car. Waves. Made a left hand turn and proceeded to take her home. I felt like nobody listened for the most part. I think that its the overwhelming feeling. You are just a pawn in the system. Reporter: Apparently ryan any defense attorney didn't help matters either. I belief that ryan would have had a better trial lawyer. Things might have been different. Mr. Rodgers, very hard to follow him. He was fumbling around. Not very with it, I didn't think. My attorney, he really didn't do a lot of the things that the he said he was going to do. He was -- not personable. He was very dry. You know? One literally fell asleep while he was talking. You see how the jury is looking. They're not responsive. Right before the jury rendered its rer dikt were you confidence they would come back with a not guilty verdict. I was not. I think to a large degree, you know the jury -- they really just wanted to be out of there. They wanted to be done with it. I think they were more concerned with, the cardinals playoff games. Reporter: Then the kicker. In the years after that 2005 conviction, both of the crucial prosecution witnesses recanted their testimony. First eriksson admit to ryan's attorney he had not been truthful. Things happened much differently than I had previously stated. I regret now that I put an innocent man through that. He didn't deserve it. Reporter: Ryan got a new hearing last year. Eriksson, then admitted under oath that he died. I have lied to everybody. Then the jen tor-- then the janitor took the stand saying he lied at the previous trial. A sex offender, police tried to -- I would look to have forgiveness from ryan. As you listen to eriksson and trump, recant what they said during the trial, were you sad, angry, relieved? I was relieved. At the same time I felt sorry for them and what they had been through, mostly because based on the facts and evidence as I have seen them, they were lied to. They were threatened. They were manipulated into this position. Where they have actually -- destroyed another person's life. The prosecutor in my whole opinion took advantage of them. But I think the prosecutor's responsibility. Me still won't admit to any act, that he has done. I don't think he ever will. I can't respect that. I will never forgive that. Once it was clear there was no remaining evidence. Ryan ferguson still doesn't released. The new judge, daniel green didn't believe eriksson's most recent account was credible to overturn the conviction. Even if eriksson was lying or wrong or dreaming again, ryan's story never changed. When I read the finding I was shocked. Judge green made a lot of big, mistakes. Simple mistakes. I looked at that. There is no case in the united states where ate person has remained incarcerated when the only two witnesses against them have recanted. After a year and a half more behind bars, finally, last week, an appellate court overturned the ruling, finding newly discovered evidence, clearly and convincingly establishes that he is innocent. Then the missouri attorney general's office announced it will not retry or pursue further action against ryan ferguson at this time. Meaning, ryan fson was a free man. Today the juror would look to sit down with ryan. What would you say to him? Apologize 1,000 times. That would be enough. I thought of writing him. I thought maybe -- foerz fryan for his part is excited to move forward and make up for an awful lot of lost time. I have been preparing for the past decade to live my life. I will take advantage of a whole lot of opportunities. If there aren't a lot of opportunities. I will make my own. I am looking forward to it. An interesting process.
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