Columbia police officers will not receive immunity in Ryan Ferguson case

COLUMBIA, Mo. - A group of Columbia police officers, also known as the defendants in this case, have lost their bid to escape liability for the Ryan Ferguson conviction on qualified immunity.

According to an official press release, there were five counts that Ferguson claimed the defendants did to harm the investigation. Those counts included that the defendants were clearly not entitled to qualified immunity, there were conspiracy claims, there was a constitutional violation that shows the defendants fabricated evidence during their investigation and questioning of Erickson, the defendants knew that the evidence was fabricated or unreliable and that the defendants used that evidence through Erickson to convict Ferguson.

The defendants argued that Ferguson cannot show that he was injured by a constitutional violation of Erickson's rights. Ferguson is saying that he was harmed by the defendant's investigation. but he is not attempting to litigate any constitutional claim that Erickson has harmed him. The defendants are also not able to get qualified immunity because some of Ferguson's evidence involves actions taken by the defendants against Erickson.

In 2005, Ferguson was convicted of the 2001 murder of Kent Heitholt and sentenced to forty years in prison. Ferguson's friend, Charles Erickson, testified against Ferguson after pleading guilty to participating in the murder. Erickson has since recanted his testimony.

After nine and a half years in prison, the Missouri Court of Appeals vacated Ferguson's sentence in 2013 because of a Brady violation. 

Ferguson filed a lawsuit saying that Officers John Short, Jeff Nichols, Jeff Westbrook, Bryan Liebhart, Latisha Stroer and Lloyd Simmons violated his constitutional rights in investigating and prosecuting him for Heitholt's murder.

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