Imagine spending nearly a decade in prison for a murder you didn't commit. To you, it may sound like a harrowing plot from a feature film, but for Ryan Ferguson, that's his reality.
In the fall of 2005, a then-21-year-old Ferguson received a 40-year prison sentence for the murder of Kent Heitholt, who was found strangled in a parking lot in Columbia, Missouri in 2001. Despite there being no physical evidence to tie him to the scene of the crime, Ferguson, who was 17 at the time of the murder, was tried and convicted as an adult after a friend dreamt he had seen him at the scene.
Over the next 10 years, his father Bill Ferguson led a tireless crusade to prove his innocence, only to be deterred by the failures in our legal system. Bill's efforts and the consequences of -- and more importantly, the shady events that led up to -- Ryan's wrongful conviction are recounted in Andrew Jenks' chilling new documentary "dream/killer," which recently premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival.
MTV News sat down with Jenks and Ferguson, now 30 years old, to talk about "dream/killer" and what people like us can do to help fix our "broken" legal system. Because if you think you're safe from wrongfully being convicted of a crime you didn't commit, you're not.
"If you're at home, asleep in bed, and your friends know it, your friends can say 'He was with me, and he did this.' And what's your alibi?" said Ferguson. "So it is frightening."
"I think it's important to note that Ryan was in jail for 18 months before he even went to trial, and he was given a $20 million bail," added Jenks. "So I think the idea that you're are innocent until proven guilty, which we hear a lot, is quite a joke."
But there is hope. According to Ferguson, the step towards repairing the system lies in one thing: accountability. "If [prosecutors] are held accountable for falsifying evidence, like they did in my case, they're probably not going to want to do that anymore."
"It's vital that this sort of information gets out there," said Jenks.