Ryan Ferguson is an American man who is widely believed to be wrongfully convicted of the 2001 murder of sports editor Kent Heitholt, who was found strangled in a parking lot in Columbia, Missouri. At the time of the murder, Ferguson was a 17-year-old high school junior. Heitholt was murdered shortly after 2 am on November 1, 2001 in the parking lot of the Columbia Daily Tribune, where he worked as a sports editor. Heitholt's murder went unsolved for two years until police received a tip that a man named Charles Erickson could not remember the evening of the murder and was concerned that he may have been involved with the murder. Erickson, who spent that evening partying with Ferguson, was interrogated by police. Despite initially seeming to have no memory of the evening of the murders, he eventually confessed and implicated Ferguson as well. Ferguson was convicted in the fall of 2005 on the basis of Erickson's testimony as well as the testimony of a janitor at the building. Both witnesses later recanted their testimony, claiming they were coerced to lie by the police.
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Hi, I'm Ryan Ferguson! I just got out of prison after 10 years for a crime I had nothing to do with. I've just recently released a book about surviving prison and how to create your best body. Check it out here http://www.amazon.com/Stronger-Faster-Smarter-Guide-Powerful/dp/0399173064 Feel free to AMA!
It is so exciting to see you on here, Ryan! I have been following your case for years, and I signed the petitions and donated to your defense fund, I joined the facebook group and tried to spread awareness and get others involved. I cried on the day you were released, I was so happy for you, and I felt really proud of my admittedly very small role in it. I love seeing all that you have done with your life in the short time since your release, and appreciate that you keep us all updated on social media. Since I think you and Myka are the most friggin adorable couple, could you give us the scoop on how exactly you met?
Thank you so much for all of your support. I would not be here if it weren't for amazing people such as yourself. How we met is a book in and of itself. I think I just answered this below though. Thanks again!!
Do you think you can tell when someone is being truthful about being innocent?
Not at all. And neither can people like Nancy Grace. That stuff disgusts me. We have to remain objective and stick to the facts. It's the only way! Love this question by the way!!
What's the first thing you ate after getting out of prison?
Steak of course, and Derry Queen!!
Like you, I feel very strongly that prosecutors, judges and law enforcement should be subject to prosecution for the kind of misconduct exemplified in your case (and every US citizen should be aware that they can literally be plucked off the street and thrown in jail for 10 years as a result). My question is: how can we as citizens help in the fight to ensure that these individuals pay the price (be disbarred, receive jail time, fines, etc.) and are held accountable?
Best question ever! The answer however plagues me. Outside of spreading awareness and showing people that this happens every day, there is very little we can do at this point. Awareness is everything though and if we all see it and choose not to accept it, things WILL change. I promise I'll keep working on this answer. It keeps me up at night.
Ryan, I just left Columbia after living there for 4 years so I've followed your case very closely. Congratulations on getting out. Hope things are well.
What kept you going after ten years to keep fighting? Especially in light of Serial in which Adnan seems sort of complacent in prison, you certainly never stopped fighting it.
Also, are you still following the Heitholt case or are you pretty far removed at this point?
I just don't know how to give up. This is true with the Heitholt case as well. The authorities do not want to arrest who actually committed this crime because it's like them admitting they were wrong and mad major mistakes. You see it all the time in cases of wrongful convictions. I will not stand for it though, we will keep pressure on them and justice WILL be served!
why did they think you did the crime and how were you absolved?
I think they knew I was innocent once the evidence began to come in. At that point though I was already in jail for an extended period of time and I believe they were unwilling to acknowledge their mistakes.
What did you think of the media coverage (especially smaller, local media outlets) of your appeal process and release from prison?
I thought it was great actually! i wish they had talked more about how innocent people got into prison in the first place but it was well done.
Do you still live in Columbia, MO, or do you try to avoid it after everything that has happened?
I love Columbia however I had to leave based on the legal climate there. The people are great, not so much our authorities, the people who are supposed to serve and protect us.
anyone ever try to attack/hit on ur sexually?
Yes, these things happen. No matter how prepared you think you are, it's always a shock.
While you were in prison, what was you interpretation of the false testimony that Charles gave? Even at trial, how did you make sense of it?
You can make sense of it all by looking at the authorities actions and how whey have done this in countless cases. Our legal system needs to change because as you can see, it's too easy to take advantage of people like Erickson.
How was it like getting into prison the first day? What was on your mind?
Survival. You have to be prepared to get your butt whopped. If people see that in you, your chance of making it goes way up. It cannot be faked.
In the biographile article you say "By the time you understand that the truth, facts, and innocence or guilt don’t matter in this fight, it’s too late." Was it not the truth, the facts, and your innocence that set you free? While it may have been very very late, is there such thing as too late if you were released?
It's too late for the arresting authorities and everyone connected to them. Fortunately after a decade, you're able to get far enough away from that good ol boy system that you might get a fair and unbiassed hearing. Great question.
Do you still talk to people in prison?
Great question. I do. There are some incredible people in there and after a decade I found about a hand full. Good guys who messed up in life who deserve a second chance. I'll be there to see that they succeed!
How on earth did you find the motivation to write a book about fitness when you're in such a depressing place? The rest of us have no excuses!
No excuses indeed! I found the motivation to write a book about fitness because that was such a huge component to my survival. It also ended up improving my quality of life in more ways than I can list. I just wanted the people who supported me and who helped me get out to have the same thing in their lives. That's why I cut out the junk and made it easy for them!It's all about giving back!!
Your positive attitude despite your wrongful conviction is inspiring and almost baffling. How do you cope with how unfair and wrong it was?
I choose to ask WHY. Not "why me". This shifts the focus off of self and onto the bigger picture which is always more important. The bigger picture here... We need accountability for police and prosecutors across our nation! Until then, this could happen to anyone. ANYONE!
What is the story behind how you and Myka met and how long have you been dating/together??
We were friends for a very long time but decided that we were meant for one another. She's been an amazing component to my life and has helped me in more ways than I ever thought possible. Brilliant woman!!
Hi Ryan. How much did you feel the outside world changed in the ten years that you were incarcerated?
So much and so little. It's like the passage of time, how a day can feel so long yet so short. Things out here look the same to me but with these communicators, as my dad says, in our pockets, everything has changed. Business is so simple on an IPhone. I love it!
How can you not have anything but hatred towards your so called friend who implicated you? I understand it was probably more the police forcing him but still.
Charles Erickson is a victim of our legal system. The responsibility is solely on the authorities who lied to, used, and manipulated him. That's where my anger is placed and I can assure you, there's plenty there. I have just found a positive way of dealing with it. Primarily through health and fitness as I laid out in my most recent book Stronger, Faster, Smarter!
A more serious question than my other one: was there a point in prison at which other inmates realized you genuinely were wrongfully convicted, and at what point did it come?
I believe that most people in there who knew me also knew I was 100 percent innocent. It took years but there is no turning point. It was definitely more towards the end once all the evidence became so overwhelming and it was widely reported. This was a good thing for my innocence coming out but also scary because to some I could be seen as a target.
It was such an eye opener for me to see how easily someone can get railroaded by the legal system. Do you still see any of your friends you had before all this happened? Did they ever question your innocence, or turn their back on you?
Sadly enough, when you get locked up, right, wrong, or indifferent, you lose almost everyone. I have three incredible friends who I mentioned in my book that have always been there. Most importantly, I have family! They are everything!!
Can you elaborate?
Quite simply, I could never feel comfortable there until those people are held accountable. It will happen though!
Do you still live in Columbia? If so how has it been interacting with people around town after you have gotten out?
I love the people of columbia, just not those who have chosen to pervert justice. They will be held accountable though and when that happens, I'll be going back. Great place!
Hey man! I've followed your case for a long time. Do you ever plan on visiting/speaking in Canada?
I do! Not sure when yet but I'll surely be there in the future!
Have the police, detectives, or prosecutors responsible for your wrongful conviction reached out to apologize to you? I watched Central Park Five and Murder on a Sunday Morning recently and was shocked by how obstinate the prosecutors were about their mistakes.
That's a good example. Not surprisingly, I have heard nothing. It's disgusting.
You float around the statistic of thousands of wrongful convictions. How do we change the criminal justice system realistically in the next 20 to 40 years to decrease that number ?
Hold police and prosecutors accountable for hiding evidence, creating false evidence, and outright threatening witness to say what they want them to say. That would be a very basic and poorly written start. Oh, statistic, conservative estimates place between 40,000 and 100,000 wrongfully convicted people in American Prisons.
How does being physically strong relate to being mentally strong?
Beyond studies linking working out to literally making you stronger, when you achieve a physical goal and show yourself that you can accomplish anything, that will translate into everything you do. There are many answers to this question but this is the one I have seen change so many lives! Great question!!
Hi Ryan! I followed your story for many years. I watched, cried, laughed, and dreamed your case in those last several months. You are so brave and inspiring! I just got your new book and I am devouring it. Will you be planning a book tour? And, if I may ask, is an engagement in the near future?
I cannot answer either of these questions. HAHA! Only time will tell! Sorry and thank you so much for your support!
How did you handle going to prison knowing you had nothing to do with the crime? Also what were your initial thoughts coming out, were you just ecstatic or were you angry and resentful?
Still figuring out my thoughts. I feel a whole range feeling both good and difficult to deal with. Am working through them. So far as handling prison, there comes a point when you realize it is not a choice. This is your reality and you have to make the best of it even though it defies logic and makes no sense.
Ryan, i am wondering what research you do concerning a prisoner who claims his innocence before supporting that prisoner? I have noticed you sometimes provide links to other prisoners cases who claim their innocence. I would like to know how you as a person know which cases to support?
I only talk about cases in which I have seen all the evidence and can say with certainty that these people are innocent. That's why there are such few links. When I get more info I will surely be sharing it!
Wow, it's amazing you wrote a book after such a life-altering thing. I wish you lots of success and plan on reading it.
Were you interested in health and making yourself have "the best body" before prison?
Not really, I had worked out a few times but had no idea how great it could be for your mental state. I would have found it eventually but prison forced it upon me quickly I guess.
Are you angry about what happened to you? If you're not, how did you get over the anger and learn to let it go?
I am incredibly angry. Always have been, always will be. Not only for myself but for my family, the community, other people who are wrongfully imprisoned and most importantly, the victims and their families. I deal with it by trying to get accountability for everyone just listed as well as myself! Take control!!
You seem to have an unreasonable amount of levelheadedness about this whole situation. How have you worked your way to your healthy attitude towards what happened?
I'm not sure I'd ever be able to not be angered about being wrongfully convicted and stripped of years of my life.
You would, I assure you. Here's why. Because what people never saw is all the suffering I went through and how I slowly, painfully realized that levelheadedness was the only way to survive. Otherwise, your as good as dead.
What do you think of the movie "The Shaw shank Redemption," and does it have any special meaning to you?
No special meaning but I love it. Well done move and a great story that easily could be true.
If you had to pick one, What was the hardest thing about prison?
Never knowing if you'd get out alive
How's the lawsuit coming along?
Seem that many wrongful convictions result in high payouts; deservedly so.
Also, congrats on being proactive and getting busy with putting out positive messages like your new book. Much success to you!
Thank you! One of my most important messages in life is about to be written... We all project energy into the world around us. Whether you want to or not, it happens. Be aware of this and chose to project POSITIVE ENERGY. Why not? It'll change your life and the life of people you've never even met!! How beautiful is that!?!?!
Are you planning a book tour? Can we find tour info on your website?
No book tour planned but feel free to check out RyanFergusonFitness.com!
Would you rather have to fight one horse-sized duck, fight 100 duck-sized horses, OR wrongfully go back to prison again for animal cruelty that you chose not to commit?
Ha, I would make a workout partner out of the horse-sized duck, pets out of the duck-sized horses (so awesome), and I have Kathleen Zellner so there's no chance I'll ever be wrongfully convicted again!
How was youre relation to the prison guards?
As with life, there are some good ones and some bad ones. That said, it was rough for many years and even when it got better, they would still lock you up in the blink of an eye. Strange place.
Do you see/believe there is a relevant connection between what happened to you and what's been going on in Ferguson, MO? That is, would you agree that police brutality, lack of accountability for police, biased grand juries, and the trigger-happy/prosecution-happy nature of our criminal justice system are all relevant parts of the conversation you're trying to raise awareness around?
I think there is a close connection however, based on the facts, I do not like the Ferguson example. The case in NY of those cops killing that poor guy Eric Garner though, that is a prime example of what's wrong with our justice system. Those cops should be in prison forever! It's sad to me an uprising that need to happen was muddied by the Ferguson case.
What are your go to supplements in helping you stay fit?
Mainly Whey and Casin protein eaten both before and after workouts. I also like Cellucor's C4 pre workout. Quest bars are a great snack as well!
What is the legacy of Ryan Ferguson's case?
One that the legal system will ultimately regret as they have lit a fire under the wrong ass! I will bring change about a change to the corruption if it's the last thing I do!
Have you ever heard of Marty Tankleff? That case was SO messed up! Shocking how often and easily completely innocent people can go to prison.
Indeed. Marty is a good man who has done much for the innocence community! Very messed up case. I wish him all the best and am proud of all that he's accomplished in his life!