November 14th, 2013
10:34 AM ET

Conviction Tossed; Ferguson Freed

Ryan Ferguson was just a teenager when he was arrested in Missouri in 2004, accused of killing Columbia Tribune sports editor Kent Heitholt three years earlier.

Implicated by a former friend who said he had dream-like memories of committing the crime, Ferguson was convicted in 2005 for Heitholt's murder and given a 40-year sentence.

Last year, the same friend admitted in court that he lied, as did a janitor who originally placed Ferguson at the crime scene.

For 10 years, Ferguson has sat in prison for a crime he always said he did not commit.

Tuesday night, he walked free, less than a week after an appeals court overturned his conviction, ruling prosecutors withheld evidence in the trial.

CNN's David Mattingly says he's "surprisingly poised" emerging from prison. "He's writing a book. He’s got a girlfriend and friends already say, ‘go into politics.’”

Ferguson's release came hours after Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster announced he would not retry Ferguson.

He found out about the decision when his lawyer appeared at the prison, holding up a piece of paper behind protective glass. On it she had quickly scrawled two words: "It's over."

Senior Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin weighed in on "New Day" Thursday about  the prosecutor in the case and how to repair the decade lost by Ferguson.

Toobin said, "The custom, to the extent there is one,  has been to compensate the unjustly accused financially. Some states have laws that allows for some compensation, lawsuits, and that's usually the way it works. Recently though, there has been an effort in some places, notably in a famous case in Texas, where prosecutors have been held personally liable."


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  1. Alex

    I was convicted of a crime I didn't do and I was in court for 1 hour and 45mins found guilty and got life sentence. I was going to my second trial and they found 226 pages of evidence that my first lawyers did receive in my first trial. It took me one year to get before a judge who over turned my case. Then I was still in prison for 3 months as a free man because I refuse to sign papers that I would sue the State Attorneys for wrong full imprisonment. I hired a Attorney and went after that State.It was discovered that they had the evidence that I wasn't guilty before I went to trail. Then I found out that the law had changed and you could no longer sue the State attorneys. My wife and I lost everything and still owe family and friends over $40,000 and we are now 67 and don't know how we are ever going to pay everyone back. The is just part of my story
    Thank You

    November 14, 2013 at 9:52 pm | Reply
    • TeamCNNCNN

      Hi, Alex,

      We are intrigued by your comments. We'll send your story to those who may be interested, but could you also lease send to us at, with contact details?

      Thanks so much. We look forward to hearing from you.

      CNN VCM

      November 15, 2013 at 6:58 am | Reply

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