(CBS) – Ryan Ferguson, a Missouri man jailed for nearly a decade for a murder he says he didn’t commit, was released from custody Tuesday night.
His release came after Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster announced Tuesday that his office will not re-try Ferguson, 29.
Ferguson spoke at a press conference shortly after his release, appearing before a throng of media and supporters who clapped and cheered as he thanked family, friends, and supporters.
“I didn’t know this morning I’d be standing here tonight,” Ferguson said. “It was very scary, very daunting. I’m very glad to be here. I want to thank the Attorney General for looking at the facts of the case and making decisions based on those facts and doing the right thing.”
Last week, an appeals court threw out Ferguson’s 2005 conviction in the killing of Columbia Daily Tribune sports editor Kent Heitholt. The appeals court ruled that Boone County prosecutors violated federal law by failing to share several pieces of evidence with Ferguson’s defense team during his trial, reports the Columbia Daily Tribune.
Ferguson’s family, friends, and thousands of supporters have always maintained his innocence. Ferguson drove away from the Boone County jail in a car bearing his picture with his parents, Bill and Leslie, according to “48 Hours” correspondent Erin Moriarty.
Ferguson was arrested for Heitholt’s 2001 murder in 2004 after a friend, Chuck Erickson, told police he and Ferguson committed the crime. But Erickson struggled with important details when being interrogated by police, and later recanted his trial testimony. An eyewitness who testified that he saw Ferguson at the scene also later recanted.
Hair, fingerprints, and bloody footprints were found at the scene, but none of them pointed to Ferguson.
“48 Hours” has covered Ferguson’s case extensively. Moriarty interviewed Ferguson in prison hours after his conviction was vacated last week.
“I know what it is to be a teenager, I don’t know what it is to be an adult in the real world, as nearly a 30-year-old,” Ferguson said. “I look forward to finding myself out and learning what it is I enjoy and what I love about life and finding what my passion is and acting on it.”