Judge rules Columbia police can be held liable in Ryan Ferguson's lawsuit

Posted at 6:06 PM, Jan 17, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-17 19:06:37-05

A federal court ruled six officers in the Columbia, Missouri Police Department cannot use “qualified immunity” as a defense against Ryan Ferguson’s lawsuit.

Ferguson was convicted in the murder of newspaper editor Kent Heitholt in Columbia, Missouri in 2001. Later, he was cleared of the death.

Ferguson is suing the police department, claiming they bullied his friend, Charles Erickson, into confessing.

Tuesday’s ruling said a police confession video of Erickson supports Ferguson’s claim of a “reckless investigation.”

RELATED | KC lawyer seeks freedom for Erickson from same murder conviction as Ferguson

When police led Erickson to believe Ferguson would testify against him, Erickson said he felt pressured to say he did the murder thinking he’d otherwise face the death penalty.

Erickson has since recanted, but he is still locked up for the 2001 beating and strangling death of Heitholt.

Tuesday’s ruling said police are “clearly not entitled to qualified immunity” in most of Ferguson’s claims against them.

The lawsuit goes back to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, which asked for Tuesday’s clarification.



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