06:51 - Source: CNN
Conviction tossed; Ferguson freed

Editor’s Note: The dramatic exoneration of falsely accused murderer Michael Morton is the subject of CNN Films’ “An Unreal Dream, The Michael Morton Story,” airing Sunday, December 8, at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CNN TV.

Story highlights

Lawyer's two words told him his fate: "It's over"

Ryan Ferguson has been in prison since 2004

He is freed Tuesday night days after court overturns his murder conviction

The Missouri attorney general says he won't retry Ferguson

CNN  — 

Ryan Ferguson was freed last year after serving nearly 10 years for a murder he said he didn’t commit. Now, an attorney for Ferguson has filed a $100 million lawsuit for violations of his civil rights.

Implicated by a former friend who said he had dreamlike memories of committing the crime, Ferguson was convicted in 2005 for Heitholt’s murder and given a 40-year sentence.

In 2012, the same friend admitted in court that he lied, as did a janitor who originally placed Ferguson at the crime scene.

For 10 years, Ferguson has sat in prison for a crime he always said he did not commit.

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Tuesday night, he walked free, less than a week after an appeals court overturned his conviction, ruling prosecutors withheld evidence in the trial. His release came hours after Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster announced he would not retry Ferguson.

He found out about the decision when his lawyer appeared at the prison, holding up a piece of paper behind protective glass. On it she had quickly scrawled two words: “It’s over.”

“I feel like Jay Leno or something,” a beaming Ferguson joked to cheering supporters after his release.

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Now 29, he faces a new world.

“He has no college education and has never sent a text, posted a Facebook update or used a smartphone,” according to the Free Ryan Ferguson website, set up by his family and supporters.

He acknowledged after his release that while in prison, he never allowed himself to “look too far into the future.” But he has been reading, studying, taking care of himself and “preparing for my life.”

His first stop after leaving the courthouse?

“I kind of want some Dairy Queen.”

Freedom after murder conviction tossed well over a decade later