Settlement in Case Awards Ryan Ferguson $2.75 Million, Protects Individual Officers

Jul 11, 2017

In 2004, Ryan Ferguson was arrested for the murder of Columbia Daily Tribune sports editor Kent Heigthold. He spent the better part of the next ten years in prison after being convicted of the crime, but in November 2013, the Missouri Court of Appeals Western District overturned these convictions after it emerged evidence had been withheld from his defense.

On Monday, Judge Nanette Laughrey awarded Ferguson 11 million dollars, 1 million for each year he was imprisoned, plus an additional million for legal expenses, in his case against police and city officials.

"There’s not any amount of money that would compensate him," Kathleen Zellner, who represented Ferguson, said, "but it’s a recognition by the court that his constitutional rights were violated, specifically that the evidence was fabricated against him, and that this was a reckless investigation."

But Ferguson won’t necessarily receive this full amount. Columbia, the police officers involved and Ferguson have reached a settlement where he will be paid 2.75 million dollars total from city self-insurance and Clarendon American Insurance. Under this agreement, the officers won’t personally pay Ferguson, and he’s free to seek further damages from The Travelers Companies, who insured the city at the time and deny responsibility.