Dateline | November 30, 2012
>>> what you will see this week is a series of evolving lies.
>> reporter: ryan ferguson 's hearing here in columbia, missouri, was nothing, if not dramatic. here the two key witnesses who put ryan in prison told the judge they lied when they help convict him of murder. and both of them told the judge they understood very well they could now be penalized heavily for having committed perjury.
>> i'm possibly facing the rest of my life in prison , and that's something that i accept. and maybe, you know, i deserve that for life because i basically sold my soul to save myself. and maybe that's what i deserve.
>> reporter: so did the state stand up, admit an error and send everybody home? no, it certainly did not. instead the assistant attorney general told the judge that chuck's latest story that he had no memory at all of what happened the night of the murder was preposterous.
>> i'm sorry, what was that? you didn't remember it being a murder?
>> i didn't remember committing a murder. i thought that i had done it because, you know, i blacked out.
>> reporter: only reason chuck changed his story, said the assistant a.g., was that he figured if ryan went free, he might get out of prison, too.
>> you're saying you have a willingness to say anything you need to say to get ryan out?
>> at the time i did. am i telling you the truth now? i'm telling the truth now. do i expect you to believe it? no.
>> reporter: which chuck should they believe, the one who said ryan chucked heitholt or the story now trying to prove his friend's innocence? ryan had high hopes .
>> these people have subjected themselves to life in prison for coming forward and telling the truth.
>> reporter: yeah.
>> and that truth is i had nothing to do with this case.
>> reporter: now he waited. one month, two, four, six months, he counted from his prison cell . he began to make plans to go into business with his father, to travel to florida with his mother, to spend time with a new girlfriend he had been corresponding with in prison. and then it was halloween again. 11th anniversary of kent heitholt's murder. ryan was in his cell. a guard came to see him.
>> they called me back there and said i had an attorney phone call .
>> reporter: an attorney phone call .
>> reporter: this could be it.
>> this could be it.
>> reporter: right then what was it like?
>> i couldn't even really think. i just had to put, like, one foot ahead of the other. that was it. because, you know, i couldn't really hear anything. i was just, you know, my heart was beating. the anticipation was so great that it kind of canceled out everything else. and then i got on the phone with my attorney. and the first thing she says is, you know, i've got a bit of bad news. and basically, i didn't hear anything after that.
>> reporter: the judge denied ryan ferguson 's request to have his conviction overturned.
>> i'm trying to hear what she was saying, but it's almost incomprehensible. i mean, it felt like a dream.
>> reporter: in his ruling, the judge said chuck was completely fabricating the stories he told at the hearing. he didn't believe his story about having no memory. said chuck was far more certain and specific at trial. as for the janitor, jerry trump, the judge was convinced that jerry trump committed perjury at the initial trial, lied about seeing ryan , but he said it's unlikely it would have changed the jury's decision had they known the truth.
>> a judge has denied convicted killer ryan ferguson a new trial.
>> reporter: and in the same way he found out his son had been arrested for murder, bill ferguson learned ryan 's fate from a reporter.
>> and she says, oh, i just want to know if you want to make a comment on judge green's ruling. and i'm thinking, what? what ruling? and she goes, well, you know, he just -- oh -- oh, my god, you don't know, do you? i go, no.
>> that was it.
>> finally i got ahold of my dad. you know, he was trying to hold it together, but even his voice cracked, you know. and that was -- i don't know. it was the worst sound i've ever heard in my life. it was the most difficult i've probably ever heard.
>> reporter: and then you were locked down.
>> yeah. it's just at that moment you feel so empty and so alone and hopeless, you know.
>> reporter: kent heithol trk's family has all along opposed ryan 's attempts to overturn his conviction. ryan 's attorney has by no means given up. she said the judge's ruling is perplexing because it's riddled with contradictions and factual errors. and she says she'll bring the case to the supreme court if that's what it takes.
>> it is frustrating to have something so incredible happen where people are willing to come forward and admit they lied and then have a judge reject that. but thank goodness he doesn't have the last word in this.
>> reporter: just this week, ryan 's family got busy again. they put up a billboard here in town trying to track down the real witness, the mystery witness, the janitor spotted in the parking lot that fateful halloween of 2001 .
>> you wait and see. we're going to get a lot of good information out of this.
>> reporter: and deep inside the state prison , ryan ferguson counts the days. are you allowing yourself, as you did before this hearing, to imagine, you know, next week, next month, next year what i'll do on the outside?
>> it's a long way away right now, but yeah, i do imagine it. you know. i have an amazing family, an amazing girl in my life, and i really look forward to being able to live with them and spend time with them. i think, you know, when i do get out, we'll all do amazing things together. you know, i live for that.
>> that's all for this edition of "dateline." we'll be back