JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Missouri attorney general said Tuesday that he won't seek to retry a man whose murder conviction and 40-year prison sentence in the slaying of a newspaper sports editor were recently overturned.
The decision Tuesday by Attorney General Chris Koster means that Ryan Ferguson could be released from prison soon.
Last week, a state appeals court overturned Ferguson's murder and robbery convictions for the 2001 strangling and beating death of Columbia Daily Tribune sports editor Kent Heitholt. The appeals panel said the prosecutor's office had withheld evidence from defense attorneys and Ferguson did not receive a fair trial.
Koster's office said in a brief written statement Tuesday that it had carefully reviewed the remaining evidence and decided not to retry or pursue any further legal action against Ferguson at this time.
Ferguson's case has been the subject of numerous national TV news shows. That's because his 2005 conviction came after his high school classmate, Chuck Erickson, testified that he had recalled from dreams several years later that the two of them had been involved in Heitholt's slaying after a late night of Halloween partying.
Erickson received a 25-year sentence as part of a plea agreement for testifying against Ferguson. But Erickson has since recanted his testimony.
At an April 2012 hearing, former Tribune janitor Jerry Trump also said he had testified falsely during Ferguson's trial when he identified Ferguson and Erickson as the two men he saw in the newspaper's parking lot where Heitholt was killed early the morning of Nov. 1, 2001.
Last week's appeals court ruling said an investigator in the Boone County prosecutor's office should have shared details about an interview he had with Trump's wife that could have raised questions about Trump's account before Ferguson's trial. The appeals panel cited that as part of a pattern in which prosecutors failed to disclose evidence to Ferguson's defense attorneys.
"We conclude that Ferguson did not receive a fair trial. His verdict is not worthy of confidence," the court wrote in its ruling.