COLUMBIA, IL (KPLR)– Three months ago Ryan Ferguson talked to us from a maximum security prison in Jefferson City. He was approaching his tenth year of a 40 year sentence for a murder and days away from a decision of an appeals court.
“I’m hopeful,” Ferguson told us back in November. It never sounded so promising.
Today the 29 year old sits in the living room of his mother’s home in Columbia, Missouri, a free man after the court overturned his conviction and just days away from releasing an Ebook. “Stronger, Faster, Smarter” is about surviving prison with health and fitness.
“My initial thing was to get big and look bad so people would leave me alone and I’d feel safe. But after doing that I actually realized I felt good,” Ferguson said.
While it may appear Ferguson’s life has returned to normal, he says he’s still finding his way. In the first few days out he says just choosing a product brand at the drugstore was overwhelming.
“I had dreamt about getting deodorants or different kinds of shaving cream or anything and once I had the option right in front of me I was completely lost,” he said.
From his arrest to release, Ferguson never lost the support of his father. Bill Ferguson worked tirelessly to prove his son’s innocence, even driving across the country in a car wrapped with his son’s photo. One of his favorite moments since his son’s release was playing basketball together for the first time in a decade.
“We both made our first shots, it sort of went downhill after that but we were excited for each other that we made our first shots,” said Bill Ferguson.
During Ferguson’s incarceration, his case snowballed from a local news story to an international freedom campaign, thanks to national news shows, a Facebook page with tens of thousands of supporters and a high powered Chicago appeals attorney who took his case pro bono. Ferguson has always been humbled by his supporters and is now trying to pay it forward. In the weeks since his release, he’s appeared on national news show as advocate for others who he believes have also been wrongly convicted including Amanda Knox. The two became friends when Knox sent him a message after his release via social media.
“I see Amanda as Family because of what we’ve gone through, it’s something most people don’t understand. We’ve had the opportunity to look at the facts, to investigate everything and 100% and we know she’s absolutely innocent and she needs that support,” he said.
Ferguson and his father are even working to free Charles Erickson, the young man whose false confession and testimony helped send Ferguson to prison.
“I lost ten years of my life based on what he did but if you look at what he did it’s because the police and prosecutors. The man is innocent pure and simple, he doesn’t belong in prison. We support him, he should be a free man,” he stated.
Ryan’s Ebook will be released at the end of the month or the first of March. He also plans to release a hardcover book later this year about his arrest, conviction, imprisonment and release.