(CBS) - Ryan Ferguson, a Missouri man jailed for nearly a decade for a murder he says he didn’t commit, spoke with 48 Hours’ Erin Moriarty about his hope for a new life after his conviction was thrown out by an appeals court Tuesday.
“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,” said Ferguson, 29, who was convicted in 2005 for the 2001 murder of Columbia Daily Tribune sports editor Kent Heitholt.
”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.”
Moriarty, who has covered the case for eight years, interviewed Ferguson in prison hours after he learned learned his conviction had been vacated. She was with Ferguson’s parents Bill and Leslie Tuesday morning, who hugged and high-fived before calling their son to congratulate him.
“We are very, very excited - can’t wait to see you,” Leslie Ferguson told Ryan over the phone as “48 Hours” crews filmed. “Can’t wait for my really long hug.”
The family hopes to be re-united soon, but the state must decide whether to re-try Ferguson. His lawyer, Kathleen Zellner, has filed a motion seeking his release on bond, reports the Columbia Daily Tribune, but it’s not clear when he could be released.
Ferguson said he felt “overwhelmed” after learning his conviction had been thrown out, but said, “even though I feel like we crossed a huge hurdle, I don’t feel like I have my life back.”
When Moriarty asked him what it felt like to be ruled an innocent man, Ferguson replied, “I’m not quite sure what it feels like yet - still standing in prison. I know it takes time. I don’t think it’s really hit me yet. It’s kind of overwhelming, at the same time, you don’t really feel it because you’re still surrounded by these fences and the guards and everything.”
Ferguson, his family and thousands of supporters have always maintained his innocence and were anxiously awaiting Tuesday’s decision.
Ferguson was arrested for Heitholt’s 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 said 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, Moriarty reported.
Watch his interview with 48 Hours by clicking here.
“He is innocent,” Zellner told “48 Hours.”The day always comes if you’re innocent. It just takes longer, but an innocent person never stops fighting.”