Ryan Ferguson, convicted of a murder via prosecutorial railroading, witnesses who later recanted their testimony, and witholding of evidence, was freed yesterday, due to the efforts of the law firm of attorney Kathleen Zellner, whose pro bono efforts cost her about $1,200,000 in both expenses and 3,500 unbilled hours. NBC just published a piece by her which enumerated the 10 turning points in her successful campaign to free her client.
In a recent Kansas City Star editorial, From Texas, a warning for prosecutors who cheat defendants, Barbara Shelly has called for an investigation of former prosecutor and current circuit court judge Kevin Crane:
Based on telephone calls and emails I’ve received over the past few days, it seems that a lot of people who have followed the Ferguson case are angry at the former Boone County prosecutor, Kevin Crane, who withheld evidence that could have played a significant role in Ferguson’s trial... Prosecutors produced no physical evidence.Read more here.
Crane, who is now a Boone County judge, said in a 2012 court hearing that he still believed Ferguson and his friend were guilty.
I don’t think we know enough about what went on in Crane’s office as he put the Ferguson case together. But, based on this opinion by a Missouri appeals court panel, the Missouri Bar should take a look at what happened, much as the Texas Bar did. The Missouri Bar also should investigate recent overturned cases that were prosecuted by Kenny Hulshof, a former assistant state attorney general who went on to serve six terms in Congress.
On the front end, as The New York Times noted in an editorial over the weekend, judges should issue a standard written order reminded prosecutors they are ethically bound to turn over all potentially exculpatory evidence, under penalty of contempt charges if they don’t. It’s past time for courts at all levels to start treating prosecutorial misconduct as a serious and all-too-frequent problem.