Think back 9.5 years. For me, I was 11 years old. There was no Facebook, Twitter, iPhones or Macbooks. For Ryan Ferguson, when he thinks back 9.5 years, he would think of the last time that he was a free man.

As of late Tuesday afternoon, those 9.5 years have finally come to a close and Ferguson is about to be set free into a world that, more than likely, he won’t recognize. The courts have finally realized their mistakes, but there is no way to make up for years taken away unjustly.

In 2001, Sports Editor of the Columbia  Daily Tribune, Kent Heitholt, was found murdered next to his car. On the same night, Ferguson was down the street at a bar with his friend Chuck Erickson. Two years later, Erickson went to the police claiming that he was having dreams that he and Ferguson had committed Heitholt’s murder.

The tapes of Erickson’s interrogation with Columbia police are disturbing to say the least. In one particularly chilling interaction, the officer asks Erickson what was used to kill Heitholt. Erickson responds that he doesn’t know, and guesses that maybe it was a bungee cord. The officer gets in his face and tells him what the murder weapon was. By the time the trial rolled around, Erickson suddenly knew all the details of the murder that at one time had eluded him.

Erickson pleaded guilty for 25 years in prison in exchange for his testimony against Ferguson. His testimony, combined with witness Jerry Trump’s was enough to get a guilty verdict and a 40-year sentence for Ferguson.

The Missouri courts ignored the fact that the blood and hair left at the crime scene proved definitively that it was not Ferguson or Erickson that committed the crime. They also chose not to recognize the inconsistencies in the prosecution’s case. The prosecution argued that they committed the murder to get money to go back to the bar for drinks, when in reality the bar had been closed for an hour. Phone records prove that Ferguson was home on his phone at the time of the murder. The prosecution’s case had more holes than actual proof.

Within the next seven years, new evidence came to to light. Erickson admitted that he had lied to the police, and they had not committed the murder. Trump also admitted to perjury, saying that the prosecution pressured him into identifying Ferguson. Another witness to the murder came forward and said that they saw who murdered Heitholt, and it wasn’t Erickson or Ferguson.

And yet Ferguson sat … and waited … and waited some more for the appeals court to grant him a new trial. But they wouldn’t budge. For years they had this proof, but wouldn’t do anything with it. They left an innocent man to rot in prison, and watch his life waste away, while they sat on their thumbs saying “someday maybe” and “there’s just not enough to prove that Erickson is telling the truth now.”

Finally, after having hundreds of thousands of Americans vying for his freedom, through Facebook, a change.org petition and letters written to the governor, Missouri woke up and decided to vacate Ferguson’s conviction. Less than a week later, they decided not to retry him.

He’s free, and it’s undoubtedly a victory for everyone. Trust me, I’m one of his most passionate supporters, and I couldn’t have been more excited when I found out.

But has justice really been served? How can we take away 9.5 years of this man’s life and assume that just setting him free is justice. Who is going to give him back those years where he missed time with his family, his years getting an education and his years building a life for himself?

Justice has not been served. There is no justice for this man. Justice would be turning back the clock and stopping the atrocity from happening in the first place.

It happened, it was wrong, and they can’t assume that people are going to forget about it just because they’ve decided their fight wasn’t worth it anymore. From what I think, Missouri doesn’t believe that Ferguson is an innocent man. I think that they were just tired of fighting and enduring the backlash from his supporters.

He will never forget, and as he stands, a free man in this world that he doesn’t know, he will think of everything the “justice” system took from him for 9.5 years.

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