Free -- at last!

COLUMBIA, Mo 11/12/13 (Beat Byte) -- As of today, with a motion of early release unchallenged, Ryan Ferguson is legally free. 

A damning appellate court decision that found then-Boone County prosecutor Kevin Crane guilty of violating the so-called "Brady Rule" -- a prosecutorial duty courts hold nearly sacred -- has convinced Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster not to retry Ferguson for the 2001 murder of Columbia Daily Tribune sportswriter Kent Heitholt.

Missouri Western District Court of Appeals Justices found that Crane -- now a Boone County circuit court Judge --  withheld evidence that impugned the testimony of a key witness in the case against Ferguson, 29, and co-defendant Chuck Erickson.  The 1963 Brady v. Maryland Supreme Court decision found that withholding exculpatory evidence violates the due process clause of the U.S. Constitution.  To do so is widely considered the biggest taboo in criminal jurisprudence.  

"After studying the appellate court's opinion in Ferguson v. Dormire and carefully reviewing the remaining known evidence in the case, the Attorney General's office will not retry or pursue further action against Ryan Ferguson at this time," Koster's office announced this afternoon.   Boone County Prosecutor Dan Knight sent the case to Koster, citing a conflict of interest in his office. 

The "at this time" caveat seems to leave the door open for action in the future, but will likely be interpreted as political cover by some analysts.  Koster is running for Missouri Governor in 2016. 

Sentenced to 40 years in prison, Ferguson is set for release from the Jefferson City Correctional Center later today, an employee of his attorney, Kathleen Zellner, told the Kansas City Star.