Ryan Ferguson's attorney has filed a $100 million civil rights lawsuit on behalf of the Missouri man wrongly convicted and imprisoned for nearly a decade.
As you may recall, Ferguson, 29, was freed in November after spending more than eight years in prison for the murder of Missouri newspaper editor Kent Heitholt in 2001. The court overturned his conviction because the case was rife with evidentiary problems.
On the 10th anniversary of his arrest, Ferguson is at the center of a legal dispute again, but this time as a victim in a civil lawsuit.
Civil Lawsuit Filed
Ryan Ferguson's lawsuit takes aim at the unlawful way authorities conducted their investigation and case.
Ferguson's attorney Kathleen Zellner filed the suit against 12 defendants -- including individuals (cops, investigators, and attorneys) as well as the Columbia Police Department, the city of Columbia, Boone County, and the Boone County Prosecuting Attorney's Office. Among the lawsuit's numerous claims are allegations of:
- Destruction and/or suppression of exculpatory evidence,
- Fabrication of evidence,
- Reckless or intentional failure to investigate,
- Malicious prosecution,
- Conspiracy to deprive constitutional rights,
- Failure to intervene,
- False arrest,
- Defamation, and
None of the DNA collected at the scene, or the footprints and fingerprints, matched Ferguson; however, jurors unanimously convicted Ferguson by relying on the testimony of two witnesses. Those two witnesses later confessed to lying under the oath, according to the suit.
In addition, details surfaced that prosecutors repeatedly failed to disclose exculpatory evidence -- evidence that could have helped Ferguson and may have changed the outcome of the case. There are also reports that the wife of the key witness was intimidated and coerced by authorities who were overly zealous about obtaining a conviction, St. Louis' KSDK-TV reports.
Different Types of Damages
The lawsuit asks for actual damages of $75 million and punitive damages of $25 million.
Actual damages are awarded to compensate for actual losses (also called "compensatory damages"). The amount awarded is based on the proven harm, loss, or injury suffered by the plaintiff.
The actual damages award does not include punitive damages, which may be awarded when a defendant's actions are especially reckless or malicious. Punitive damages are awarded in cases of serious or malicious wrongdoing to punish or deter the wrongdoer or deter others from behaving similarly.
Considering the level of misconduct alleged and the number of involved parties, Ferguson is certainly poised well to obtain a hefty settlement from his wrongful conviction.
- Attorney for wrongly convicted Ryan Ferguson files $100M lawsuit (CBS News)
- Ryan Ferguson vs. State of Missouri (FindLaw)
- Man Framed for Murder by N.Y. Cop Gets $6.4M (FindLaw's Injured)
- How Do You Get a Conviction Vacated? (FindLaw's Blotter)