Mo. man freed in editor's death sues for $100M
ST. LOUIS — A man recently released from prison when a Missouri court overturned his conviction in a sports editor's death is seeking $100 million in damages in a federal civil rights lawsuit against seven police detectives, a prosecutor turned judge and a former police chief.
The 50-page suit says Columbia, Mo., police fabricated evidence against Ryan Ferguson, bullied witnesses and ignored other leads in their investigation into the 2001 killing of Kent Heitholt, a Columbia Daily Tribune sports editor. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, asks for actual damages of $75 million and compensatory damages of $25 million. It names the city of Columbia, its police department, Boone County and two investigators for the county prosecutor's office.
Ferguson spent nearly a decade in prison but was released in November 2013 when an appeals court panel ruled that prosecutors wrongly withheld evidence from the defense. Missouri's attorney general opted not to retry Ferguson, who has since moved to Florida to avoid the glare of attention in his hometown.
His case gained national attention because his high school classmate, Chuck Erickson, claimed to have recalled through dreams years after the fact that he and Ferguson had killed Heitholt during a late-night robbery after a Halloween of partying. Erickson has since recanted his testimony but is in prison. Ferguson says his former high school classmate is innocent.
In his release, Ferguson received a veritable hero's welcome in Columbia during a celebratory news conference, with his new girlfriend by his side. But the lawsuit suggests Ferguson has faced a difficult adjustment.
“Ryan's new identity upon walking out of prison is that of a 29-year-old uneducated, jobless man without health care or funds for psychological counseling,” the suit said. “For years, he was branded as a brutal murderer, and those scars cannot be excised.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Georgia prosecutor Yates tapped for No. 2 post in Justice Department
- Police: NYC cop killer invited people to watch shooting
- Government survey: More teens trying out e-cigarettes than real thing
- New York farmers lament lost opportunity for natural gas riches with fracking ban
- Coal mines near record low in worker deaths
- Florida officer slain; 1 charged
- New York City subways slowly upgrading from 1930s-era technology
- Veteran NBC newsman Brokaw says his cancer is in remission
- Obama fires back on foreign policy on Cuba, Russia
- NYPD: Cop ambush killer told passers-by to watch
- Arizona immigrants OK’d to apply for driver’s licenses