Young man wrongly convicted of murder in Missouri files $100M lawsuit

March 13, 2014 at 1:43 PM
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KANSAS CITY, Mo., March 13 (UPI) -- A young Missouri man who spent nearly a decade in prison is seeking $100 million in damages for the years he was "branded as a brutal murderer."

Ryan Ferguson filed a federal lawsuit Monday, the 10th anniversary of his first questioning by police in the killing of Kent Heitholt, sports editor of the Columbia Tribune, Courthouse News Service reported. The lawsuit names Columbia Police Chief Randy Boehm; Kevin Crane, a former Boone County prosecutor who is now a judge; nine police detectives and prosecutor's investigators, and the city and county.

"Ryan's new identity upon walking out of prison is that of a 29-year-old, uneducated, jobless man without healthcare or funds for psychological counseling," the lawsuit states. "For years, he was branded as a brutal murderer and those scars cannot be excised."

Ferguson was convicted in 2005 of killing Heitholt in the newspaper's parking lot four years earlier and sentenced to 40 years in prison. He was released after his conviction was overturned in November.

The lawsuit seeks $75 million in actual damages and $25 million in punitive damages.

A co-defendant and key witness in the case, Chuck Erickson, remains in prison. Erickson, who had been partying with Ferguson on Halloween, initially told police he had no memories of anything that happened that night but said two years later that he had recovered memories of the killing.

In the lawsuit, Ferguson alleges police gave Erickson details about the crime to bolster his confession.

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