With prison behind him, Ryan Ferguson faces different challenge getting restitution

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Ryan Ferguson told reporters he's starting over with little more than the clothes on his back after being freed from prison. Getting compensated for the life he's lost won't be easy.

How exactly do you put a price tag on eight years lost? According to Missouri state law, it may be nearly impossible in Ferguson’s case. To start, Missouri's compensation statute only applies to cases where a person was exonerated with DNA evidence. Ferguson was not

"So he's not eligible for the statutory compensation, which isn't much anyway, which means he has to sue somebody," Sean O’Brien, UMKC law professor and Midwest Innocence Project board member, said.

How about the Boone County prosecutor? An appeals court ruled that the prosecutor withheld evidence from defense attorneys, preventing Ferguson from getting a fair trial. But even so, trying to sue a prosecutor is tough according to O’Brien.

"He has to get over doctrine called "Governmental Immunity" Prosecutors are absolutely immune. They cannot be sued. For cheating, lying, violating the constitution to put an innocent man in prison. You cannot sue a prosecutor for that period," O’Brien said.

O'Brien also said Ferguson can try to go after the investigators, or police involved in the case, but those individuals have what's known as "Qualified Immunity."

"Means you have to prove not only that they did wrong, but that they knew they were doing wrong, they acted in bad faith," O’Brien said.

If Ferguson can't prove that, he can't sue. And even if he could, it would likely take years for that lawsuit to be resolved. Last August, we introduced you to Darryl Burton, who spent 24 years in the state penitentiary for a murder he didn't commit.

Five years after being exonerated, Burton says he still hasn't seen any financial restitution. Ferguson supporters have set up a campaign for private donations, which has collected about $30,000 so far, to help him. You can learn more about that campaign by clicking on this link.

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