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Erickson’s lawyer argues back after state replies to habeas petition

Charles Erickson’s attorney said the state of Missouri’s reply to his petition of habeas corpus is “riddled with errors, consistently misstating or mischaracterizing the law or facts, or misleadingly characterizing the arguments.”

Landon Magnusson told ABC 17 News that he thought it was “terrible” that the state would present arguments that he said were not “well-reasoned or well-researched.”

He filed his reply in support of Charles Erickson’s writ of habeas corpus petition on Monday, just three weeks after the state filed its response.

Erickson, 34, filed the original petition in Pike County in late 2018, alleging that Boone County prosecutors and Columbia police coerced him into confessing to Kent Heitholt’s death on Halloween night 2001.

In the state’s response April 5, Assistant Attorney General Michael Spillane wrote that Erickson was not coerced to plead guilty, and that there was nothing in the record showing police made up evidence.

Spillane argued that Erickson was not actually innocent under Missouri law and asserted that, among other things, the new evidence doesn’t support his claim of innocence and the original evidence is reliable enough to establish his guilt.

Part of the evidence Erickson wants to use is the recanted testimony of two witnesses, Shawna Ornt and Dallas Mallory.

Magnusson said that deciding whether the evidence is sufficient will ultimately be up to the court.

He wrote that Erickson was still entitled to habeas relief even though he pleaded guilty. He also said that Erickson should be able to use recanted testimony and testimony offered during Ryan Ferguson’s court battle.

The state argued that Erickson repeated his story and confession about the Heitholt murder to several people before the arrest, including Arturo Figuerora and Nick Gilpin. Spillane also wrote he told the same story to his trial attorney.

Magnusson said that the “false” confessions Erickson told were a “product of his mental illness, drug use, and obsessive research.”

The case is now in the hands of Pike County Judge Milan Berry. Magnusson said he didn’t know when he could make a decision, but hoped the result was an evidentiary hearing where both sides could present the evidence in court.

ABC 17’s Sara Maslar-Donar interviewed Erickson in prison back in February. Here is a link to that story. You can find her extended interview with Erickson here.

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