Conviction Overturned for Mo. Man Who Spent Almost a Decade in Prison for Murder


When Erickson replied, "No," an officer then asked, "you didn't put anything in your hand then?"

"No," Erickson said. "I don't remember that at all."

But detectives became aggressive during their interrogation and Erickson eventually claimed he and Ferguson had run out of drinking money and decided to rob someone.

At the seven-week-long trial in 2005, Erickson somehow knew all the details that had eluded him during the interrogation and was the star witness against Ryan Ferguson.

"He was down here and he had a belt, and he had his foot on his back on the victim's back and he was pulling up on the belt," Erickson testified in court.

His detailed account was supported by the testimony of a janitor named Jerry Trump, who identified Ferguson as one of the two men he saw in the parking lot immediately after the murder.

Erickson and Trump's testimony held up the case against Ferguson. None of the DNA collected at the scene -- the footprints and fingerprints -- matched Ryan Ferguson's, but the testimony was enough for the jury to convict him. Erickson was also convicted and sentenced to 25 years.

"It reminded me of playing freshman football and getting the breath knocked out of me," Bill Ferguson said. "It was surreal, I just couldn't believe it."

Four years after that 2005 conviction, Ferguson seemingly got a break. Two weeks after Kathleen Zellner, an attorney who has won many wrongful conviction cases, agreed to take on Ferguson's case pro-bono, Ferguson received a letter in prison from Erickson, asking for Ferguson's attorneys to meet with him.

With Zellner's camera rolling, Erickson read a statement admitting he had not been truthful in his testimony against Ferguson.

"Things happened much differently than I had previously stated, I could not accept in my conscience mind that I was the sole perpetrator," Erickson said on Zellner's tape. "I regret now that I put an innocent man through that. He didn't deserve it."

Ferguson got a new court hearing in April 2012, and Erickson testified that he had lied about Ferguson's involvement in the murder during his initial trial. Then Trump, the janitor, took the stand and admitted that he too had lied at the trial. A convicted sex offender, Trump now claimed that police pressured him to implicate Ferguson and Erickson from looking at a photo.

"He said, 'It would be very helpful if you can help us with this ... by identifying them.'" Trump testified in 2012. "I felt very intimidated, because the only thing I wanted to do, at that point, was to do the right thing. I'd been in enough trouble."

Ryan Ferguson thought his nightmare was over, but Judge Daniel Green didn't believe Erickson's most recent account and found that there wasn't enough reliable new evidence to overturn his conviction.

Ferguson appealed Green's ruling. In September, his lawyers made arguments in Western District appeals court, rebutting his conviction.

Today, that court overturned Ferguson's murder conviction, on the grounds that the prosecution withheld from the defense a phone conversation that an investigator in the Boone County prosecutor's office conducted with Trump's wife, Barbara Trump, "which impeached Jerry Trump's explanation for his ability to identify Ferguson," Judge Martin wrote.

"The undisclosed evidence renders Ferguson's verdict not worthy of confidence," she said.

After a decade of waiting, it seems that Ferguson can finally hope to clear his name.

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