Ferguson Attorney Responds to AG

Zellner files response arguing for writ of habeas corpus

POSTED: 06:31 PM CDT Mar 23, 2013    UPDATED: 03:57 AM CDT Mar 25, 2013 

The attorney for a Columbia man convicted of the 2001 murder of Columbia Tribune sports editor Kent Heitholt has filed a response to the state attorney general. In the filing, defense attorney Kathleen Zellner argues recantations by key witnesses and certain Brady case violations offer enough new evidence to cast doubt on the original rulings. The response outlines reasons why Western District Court should overturn previous rulings and let Ferguson walk free. Earlier this month, Chris Koster's office issued a brief in opposition to a write of habeas corpus, stating that it had no interest in hearing another appeal from Ryan Ferguson because to do so would be a "waste of judicial resources." Koster stated he was hesitant to hear the most recent appeal filed by Chicago-based attorney Zellner. "What possible expenditure of judicial resources could be more justifiable than rectifying a wrongful conviction?" Zellner argues. "The goal of the judicial system is not to conserve resource but to ensure that innocent people are not incarcerated, no matter what the cost." The new appeal came after Cole County Judge Dan Green denied Ferguson a new trial after five days of evidentiary hearing in April 2012. Both Green and Koster have stated that Zellner and her defense team have not brought new evidence to the table to warrant a new trial or another appeal. The brief cited a recent interview Ferguson did for the CBS program "48 Hours," and claimed that his defense had no new evidence or arguments. Ferguson was convicted of the 2001 Halloween night murder of then-Columbia Daily Tribune sports editor Kent Heitholt. He has denied his involvement with the beating death since his arrest several years later.