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By David Mattingly, CNN

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - A Missouri man who's spent the last 10 years in prison for a crime he says he didn't commit may be about to get a new shot at freedom. The two witnesses who were key to Ryan Ferguson's conviction both later admitted that they'd lied.

Ferguson has been locked up for 10 years, for a murder he says he couldn't have committed. But as he sits down to speak with CNN while behind bars in a Missouri prison awaiting the decision of an appeals court, he can't hide his optimism.

Ferguson: "It's optimism, hope, a little anxiety."

Reporter: "There's a lot on the line here for you."

Ferguson: "My whole life. It's incredibly scary."

Ferguson is days, maybe hours away from an appeals court ruling that could grant him a new trial, and possibly freedom. He was convicted in 2005 of killing Columbia Tribune sports editor Kent Heithold, thanks to the testimony of two men who have since admitted that they lied.

Reporter: "They lied, and you're still in prison?"

Ferguson: "I wish I could explain how that works but it's beyond my comprehension. You cannot use logic. The moment you start to use logic is the moment you drive yourself crazy."

The biggest problem is the credibility of the man who accused Ferguson in the first place. Charles Erickson, a friend at the time. He's described as a troubled young man who Ferguson supporters say was manipulated into confessing to something he only imagined.

"I don't know. I could just be completely making assumptions," Erikson said during a police interview in 2004.

Erickson was also convicted.

"He had no memory of anything happening that night. And so his entire recollection was based off police reports and he made a lot of mistakes even with those," said Ferguson's attorney, Kathleen Zellner.

Today, there's a Free Ryan Ferguson website, a Facebook page, and aChange.org petition signed by more than 235,000 people calling for a new trial. It's the work of Ferguson's supportive family.

"There was a witness there that I discovered about two years ago," said Ferguson's father, Bill Ferguson.

Bill Ferguson has spent years trying to find new evidence. He recently drove cross country, 9,000 miles in a specially wrapped car calling attention to his son's case.

Reporter: "Do you get the feeling that all of this work is about to pay off for you?"

Bill Ferguson: "I do, yeah."

Reporter: "What does that mean to you?"

Bill Ferguson: "Well, after 10 years it's just a relief to know that were just so close to gaining Ryan's freedom."

Reporter: "What have you missed the most?"

Ferguson: "I miss my family, most definitely."

Reporter: "This could still go either way."

Ferguson: "Absolutely."

Reporter: "Do you allow yourself to think about being free again?"

Ferguson: "It's impossible not to think about it. I have plans, I have dreams, I have goals."

Reporter: "What if you lose?"

Ferguson: "Yeah. I always try to remain pragmatic I guess and prepare for the worst case scenario and hope for the best."

Ferguson believes this appeal is his best chance to regain his freedom. If he is denied, he will spend the next 30 years in prison.

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