RYAN FERGUSON IS SERVING 40 YEARS FOR MURDER - NOW HIS ACCUSER SAYS IT WAS ALL A LIE - CAN NEW INFORMATION FREE AN INNOCENT MAN? - "48 HOURS: THE ACCUSER" - SATURDAY, FEB. 23, 2013, 9:00 PM
Ryan Ferguson is locked up in a Missouri prison serving out a 40-year sentence for a murder he says he didn't commit. Now, his accuser says the testimony that put Ferguson in jail was all a lie. But why is Ferguson still behind bars?
"How do so many people get it so wrong that you end up in prison for 40 years for something you didn't have anything to do with?" Ferguson asks in 48 HOURS: "The Accuser" to be broadcast Feb. 23, 2013 (9:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. "My life was taken because a jury made a decision based off of lies."
For seven years, Erin Moriarty and the 48 HOURS team have been investigating the murder of sports editor Kent Heitholt and the bizarre circumstances that have put Ryan Ferguson in prison for the crime. As Moriarty reports, the killers left behind hair, fingerprints and even bloody shoeprints, none of which has been linked to Ferguson in any way.
Heitholt was murdered outside the offices of the Columbia Daily Tribune in Missouri on Halloween night in 2001. Two years went by without a break in the case. Then police got a tip that Charles Erickson had told a friend that he and Ferguson may have committed the crime. Erickson then told police about the murder but he struggled with the details, claiming he didn't remember things clearly. "It's just so foggy," Erickson told a police interrogator. "Like I could just be fabricating all of it."
Based on Erickson's confession, he and Ferguson were arrested for Heitholt's murder in 2004. By the time they got to trial, Erickson's foggy memory was gone and his testimony included key details he didn't know when he confessed to police.
Today, Erickson's story has changed again. Recently he agreed to speak exclusively with Moriarty and revealed new details about his confession that put both men in prison. "I knew that I sold Ryan out," he tells Moriarty.
"Please look at the facts, look at the facts, look at the evidence," Ferguson tells Moriarty. "And I think if anybody did that, it's obvious that I don't belong here."
"Once you're convicted, the system works completely against you," says Ferguson's attorney Kathleen Zellner, who took on the case after seeing an earlier 48 HOURS report on the case. "It just becomes overwhelming to find evidence that a court will accept."
Ferguson's father believes his son and vows to see him walk free again. "I will fight through my last breath," Bill Ferguson tells Moriarty.
But will anyone believe Erickson's new claims or is he simply lying again? And what about another key witness who testified against Ferguson at trial? Will Ferguson serve out his sentence? 48 HOURS: "The Accuser" examines Ferguson's case using interviews with Ferguson, Erickson, family members, a witness who saw two people near Heitholt's car, Ferguson's attorney and more.
Gail Zimmerman is the producer of this broadcast. Doreen Schechter is the producer-editor. Judy Tygard is the senior producer. Susan Zirinsky is the senior executive producer.
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