Ryan Ferguson was imprisoned for 10 years for a murder he didn’t commit. After a decade behind bars, he’s now working to help overturn other wrongful convictions in MTV’s ‘Unlocking The Truth.’ In an EXCLUSIVE interview, Ryan tells us he’s determined to ‘expose’ what’s wrong with our legal system, what he thinks about when he looks back on his time in prison and more.
What do you hope viewers take away from this show?
At the very least I just want people to see our legal system as it exists because most of us are just not aware. I certainly wasn’t when I was arrested and put in prison for something I had nothing to do with. It’s just opening our eyes to the way our legal system operates. Not what they tell us, but what we actually see. That’s a very frightening thing that can affect any of our lives at any time.
This show is on MTV, which is geared towards a younger audience. Are you hoping to reach a younger audience more than anyone else?
Certainly. I think having a younger audience is primary because I was arrested when I was 19, and I met a lot of guys in there [prison] who were arrested when they were 14, 15, 16. Some of them were guilty, but there are some that are innocent. If you look at how that impacts their lives and how they were taken advantage of by these adults, the authority figures that were there to serve and protect them, and how that’s impacted them and their families and their communities, it’s a very tragic thing. Young people need to learn about our legal system, they’re going to be going through this interesting period of life. And at the same time, they’re the ones who have the ability to change the future. They hold the keys to the future and we can expose to them the truth and reality of the world they’re living in — at least one component of it — and then they can make these amazing changes.
How did you choose the specific cases to focus on?
It is a difficult process. We started with cases that we thought didn’t have a thorough investigation going in. We wanted to also find people who were arrested when they were young because that’s what happened to me. A lot of times they get taken advantage of more than anyone else. From there, it’s just whether the baselines facts are compelling facts or we think we can contribute to investigating. In some cases, there might be innocence, but there are just facts we can’t develop, look into and investigate. We looked into those things and landed on those three cases, which is amazing because two of them are from Missouri where I’m from. I like to go back there specifically and help out because that’s the system that I know is having some issues. But it’s the same all throughout the nation.
There are so many shows now — Making A Murderer, The Night Of — that are showing the world the problems with our justice system. Do you think there was a specific turning point when this became a hot-button issues?
Absolutely. This is the turning point. We’re watching it right now. The interesting thing is, it takes over a year to develop one of these shows. We were about to go into production when Making A Murderer came out and then obviously this new show on HBO just came out. Nothing can be better than having these things working in unison to expose what’s going on in our legal system. It’s something that needed to be done. About 13 years ago when I was arrested, it was almost impossible to get information on wrongful convictions. There wasn’t much out there. It was difficult to find and it would very rarely be in the news, so I thought it was the only person it was happening to. This is a turning point because people are starting to see that this can happen to anyone. I think that’s just it. I think the networks feel that fear and they want to explore more of it so we can hopefully stand up and make a change.
Do you remember the moment you wanted to start exposing these wrongful convictions?
The second I knew I was going to trial and I realized that these people don’t care about truth or justice. All the facts proved my innocence and they were still going to try to take my life. From that moment on, I knew that I was going to do everything I could to expose them, to expose our legal system. At the time, I had no idea how big it was, how systemic these issues were.
When you look back on those 10 years you spent in prison, what do you think about?
I think about the fact that I lost my 20s. I think about what my family lost. And I think about what we can do. Every morning, I think about what we can do to make sure this doesn’t happen to other people, because this is happening to other people right now. That’s it. It’s unacceptable. Even though it happened to me, I can’t think about what I lost. Knowing that other people are losing that or could potentially lose that, it’s unacceptable.
Unlocking the Truth premieres Aug. 17 at 10 p.m. ET on MTV.
HollywoodLifers, are you going to be watching Unlocking The Truth? Let us know!