Jan. 28, 2014 at 12:54 PM ET
Ryan Ferguson, who spent 10 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit, has become a confidante of Amanda Knox as she awaits the verdict in her latest trial, which could come Thursday.
“I wanted to reach out to her because I’ve looked at the facts in her case, and I believe in her innocence 100 percent,’’ Ferguson told TODAY.com. “She was very supportive and helpful when I got out, and I want to be able to give back. I believe she’s nervous and a little scared, but overwhelmingly, I would say she has been positive. The facts are in her favor.”
Ferguson, 29, was released last November when a Missouri appeals court panel overturned his 2005 conviction for second-degree murder and first-degree robbery in connection with the 2001 death of Missouri newspaper editor Kent Heitholt. Knox, 26, spent nearly four years in an Italian prison after being convicted in a case involving the murder of British roommate Meredith Kercher while both were students in Perugia, Italy, in 2007. She and ex-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito were then acquitted on appeal and released in 2011.
"I can identify with Amanda on many levels as I know firsthand what it is like to have the world turn against you based on a series of lies,'' Ferguson wrote on Facebook on Jan. 19. "There are also several similarities to my own case."
In March 2013, the Italian Supreme Court ordered another trial for Knox, rejecting the appeals court ruling. Knox, who returned to her home in Seattle after being released in 2011, is being tried in absentia.
“The only thing that’s scary, and this is a quote from me and not her, is the political aspect of it,’’ Ferguson told TODAY.com. “What I’ve seen in the justice system in the situation I was in is that it’s not always about facts and circumstances; it’s about politics.”
Ferguson read Knox’s book, “Waiting to be Heard,’’ while he was in prison, and Knox publicly supported him after his release.
“We’ve been through the same thing at different stages and experienced the same thing in different ways,’’ Ferguson said. “She’s waiting for the decision and dealing with that stress, which is very difficult for her family and her. I just told her what I did to get through the days and offer a different perspective. I just told her she has to do whatever will get her through that situation and help her keep her peace and keep her happiness.”
Knox was convicted in December 2009 and was sentenced to 26 years in prison. Sollecito received a 25-year sentence. Prosecutors claimed that Kercher’s death was as a result of a violent sex game gone awry. In 2011, the appeals court overturned the convictions, citing inadequate evidence. The court noted that the DNA evidence in the case was false or contaminated, there was no murder weapon found, and the prosecution did not provide a sufficient motive for the crime.
Ferguson was convicted on the strength of the testimony of childhood friend Charles Erickson and night custodian Jerry Trump. However, Erickson and Trump admitted in 2012 to a lower court judge that they lied on the stand during Ferguson’s trial and recanted their accounts.
In 2005, Erickson pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and first-degree robbery and testified he had a "dream-like" memory of the crime. Trump testified that he saw Ferguson in the parking lot of the newspaper office on the night Heitholt was killed. Fingerprints and strands of hair found at the scene did not match Ferguson or Erickson's, and there was no physical evidence tying Ferguson to the crime. Ferguson said he is now working to exonerate Erickson.