Judges weigh tossing Ryan Ferguson's conviction in 'dream murder' case

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The fate of a Missouri man convicted of a brutal 2001 murder rests in the hands of a trio of appeals court judges who heard arguments on Tuesday that the case should be dismissed following the recantation of testimony by two eyewitnesses.

Ryan Ferguson was convicted of murdering Kent Heitholt, a Columbia, Mo., newspaper editor in 2005.

The trial hinged on the testimony of two eye-witnesses, including a janitor at the building where the murder occurred.

The other witness was Charles Erickson, Ferguson's friend, who also pleaded guilty in the case and later told prosecutors he remembered the murder in a dreamlike state because he was so intoxicated on the night it took place.

Four years later, Erickson abruptly recanted his testimony. In 2012, the janitor Jerry Trump did the same.

With no physical evidence tying Ferguson to the crime, his new lawyers filed an appeal which was heard in Kansas City today.

Lawyers for both sides focused their arguments on Trump, whose testimony was critical in the original case because it was perceived to be less biased than Erickson's, who received a plea deal.

Courtroom observers said they believed the panel of judges' line of questioning seemed to indicate they were following Ferguson's attorney's arguments in favor of tossing out the conviction.

No ruling is expected in the case for several weeks

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