Last week a Missouri Court of Appeals vacated the conviction of Ryan Ferguson. Listeners might recall Ferguson as one of the two men accused in the 2001 murder of Columbia Daily Tribune Sports editor Kent Heitholt. In its legal opinion, the appeals court said the prosecution violated Ferguson’s due process rights by withholding favorable information from the defense team. In this case, it was an interview with the wife of a key witness that could have undermined her husband’s testimony.
This type of evidence suppression or withholding, which is known as a Brady violation, may be more common than you think. A 1999 Chicago Tribune reporton prosecutorial misconduct found that 381 homicide convictions were later vacated because “prosecutors hid evidence or allowed witnesses to lie.”
This week on Intersection, we’ll take a closer look at Ryan Ferguson’s case, and learn more about Brady violations.
Bill Ferguson is the father of Ryan Ferguson.
Rodney Uphoff is a professor in the MU School of Law. Before becoming a law professor, Uphoff was a public defender.
John Roodhouse is a partner in the law firm of Jones, Schneider and Stevens, LLC. He’s also worked as a Boone County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney and Assistant Attorney General for the State of Missouri.
Charles Atwell is an attorney with the law firm of Foland, Wickens, Eisfelder, Roper & Hofer, P.C. Before that he was a circuit judge in Jackson County.
Full disclosure: Atwell also worked with the law firm of Wyrsch, Atwell, Mirakian, Lee & Hobbs which represented Ryan Ferguson, although Atwell was not directly involved in the case.