Two of the most high-profile accused murderers in Missouri met for the first time Friday, and Ryan Ferguson believes that Mark Woodworth, like him, was wrongfully convicted.
While both men are free now, Woodworth is awaiting his third trial while Ferguson last year was released and the case against him closed.
"The guy has been persecuted for years, locked up for a crime he didn't commit, and we believe he deserves justice. He deserves his freedom and we're here to support him," Ferguson, 29, told KCTV5.
Ferguson went to jail 10 years ago for the murder of a Columbia, MO, newspaper editor. His father, Bill Ferguson, started studying Woodworth's case to try and learn about similar trials.
"I knew I needed to educate myself on how the court systems work. By doing that, you don't reinvent the wheel, you look at what else is going on out there. So I started researching newspapers for cases," Bill Ferguson said. "I followed it because I thought it was a wrongful conviction by reading the evidence."
The two men spent hours reading about Woodworth's case and looking into it.
And little did the father and son know, in another prison law library, Woodworth was reading up on a habeus corpus filed in Ryan Ferguson's case.
"When I was still in prison every weekend I would go up to the law library. I would study cases. So I'm well aware of all of his stuff too," Woodworth said.
Woodworth was a teen when he was accused of killing a neighbor.
Woodworth has experienced two overturned convictions and two retrials related to the murder of a Chilicothe farm wife. Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster is continuing to pursue the case even though a Missouri Supreme Court judge's report said Woodworth's case was unfairly stacked against him.
Woodworth awaits his third trial, this time, Ryan Ferguson will follow it from the outside.
"I think the head guy, the head attorney general, he's not actually looking at the cases. But in my case because I had so much publicity and so much support, Chris Koster actually had a chance to hear about it and realized his underlings were making a fool of him," Ryan Ferguson said.
In addition to Woodworth, Ryan Ferguson is also backing Amanda Knox, an American convicted of a murder in Italy that occurred while she was studying abroad. Knox was later released, but the Italian courts are now rehearing her case. Ryan Ferguson said he is speaking publicly about those cases because he was studied them in depth.
"I knew about Mark's case and I knew about Amanda's case while I was in prison. But they're at this crucial point with their lives right now and to not say something, not speak up to not help spread awareness, it would be negligent," Ryan Ferguson said. "People helped save my life and I feel like if I can do some small part in helping another person get their life back then I'm going to do that."
Woodworth and Ryan Ferguson embraced Friday morning before a hearing started on Woodworth's third trial. A Platte County judge set a new trial date of July 21.
Woodworth's attorneys are seeking to have the Missouri Attorney General's Office dismissed from the case.
The family of the woman that Woodworth is accused of slaying said Ryan Ferguson is making a mistake.
"It's really unfortunate for Ryan that he has associated himself with a twice-convicted murderer like Mark Woodworth. We believe that if Ryan fully understood the evidence against Mark, he would not align himself with this case. There is nothing, whatsoever, similar between Ryan's case and this case," according to a statement from Rhonda Robertson Oesch, whose mother, Cathy Robertson, was killed and father, Lyndel Robertson, was injured.
"My family is committed to ensuring that the person responsible for killing our mother, Cathy Robertson, and critically wounding our father, Lyndel, is held responsible. Two unbiased juries have seen the evidence, and believed beyond a reasonable doubt that Mark Woodworth is guilty of this crime," the statement concludes.
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