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Bill To Help Wrongfully Convicted Debated in Jeff City

(Missouri News Network) Witnesses gave passionate testimony at a Missouri Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Monday in favor of a bill that would allow people serving life sentences to present evidence of their innocence and petition the court for release.

Senator John Rizzo of Independence is the bill’s sponsor. He says the bill is a reflection of a strong appetite from both chambers to right these wrongs.

Tricia Rojo Bushnell is the executive director of The Midwest Innocence Project as well as an attorney who represented Kevin Strickland, who was successfully released 42 years after being wrongly convicted of three murders. She says this new bill is different.

Among the witnesses testifying in favor of the bill was Ryan Ferguson, who was wrongfully convicted of the 2001 murder of former Columbia Daily Tribune sports editor Kent Heitholt but eventually found innocent. He was exonerated in 2013 after the court of appeals found the state had unconstitutionally withheld evidence.

He says all innocent people should be granted the same opportunity to petition the court.

There were no witnesses who testified in opposition to the bill and the Committee has yet to vote.

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