Missouri Supreme Court Overturns Murder Conviction; AG Intends to Retry Case

Yesterday Missouri’s high court in a unanimous decision overturned the murder conviction and life sentence of Mark Woodworth, 37, in connection with the fatally shooting of Catherine Robertson and the wounding of her husband, Lyndel, as they slept in their home near Chillicothe, a town of less than 10,000 in northern Missouri. The court ruled that prosecutors had withheld evidence that would have been beneficial to Woodworth’s defense and ordered his release within 60 days of the finalized ruling, unless prosecutors file documents to retry him.

Attorney General Chris Koster indicated through a spokesperson later in the day that his office would retry Woodworth.

The Supreme Court’s decision followed the recommendation of Boone County Circuit Judge Gary Oxenhandler who had been appointed by the high court as a special master to hear Woodworth’s appeal. Reporting on Oxenhandler’s subsequent opinion, the Kansas City Star article (here) on May 1, 2012, said the judge called Woodworth a victim of “manifest injustice” and that there was “nothing fundamentally fair” in both the investigation and prosecution of the case.

In question was the conduct of public and private investigators, the trial judge, and prosecutors. “This court is skeptical that a jury of reasonable men and women, with a fair look, would find Woodworth guilty beyond a reasonable doubt,” Judge Oxenhandler concluded.

Woodworth was 16 years old at the time of the crime. He lived near the Robertson’s home, and his father farmed with the Roberston’s. Two juries convicted Woodworth of the crimes, but the case has divided the town of Chillicothe. According to the Huffington Post (here) the Robertson family called the high supreme court’s decision a miscarriage of justice.

In a Sept. 05, 2012, guest commentary for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (here) Sean  D. O’Brien, associate professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law and board member of the Midwest Innocence Project, recommended that a new trial be granted by the high court. His commentary provides context to Judge Oxenhandler and his recommendation followed by the high court yesterday, “Judge Oxenhandler’s impeccable reputation as an intelligent, fair and thorough judge is probably why the Missouri Supreme Court chose him to hear Woodworth’s evidence. He found that the investigation was biased, important evidence was concealed and two juries were misled in order to convict Woodworth.”

One response to “Missouri Supreme Court Overturns Murder Conviction; AG Intends to Retry Case

  1. Thank you Nancy for writing this. I have been investigating this case for the last 6 months and it is frustrating in that throughout the whole process of trials and appeals that no one had bothered to reach back and see if there was indeed any evidence against this man, The “statement of facts” becomes dogma that is very hard to shake.

    Interestingly in this case is that although this Mr Deister is a so called private eye hired by Lyndel Robertson there is no record that he was paid. Lyndel Robertson said he paid him in grain or beans to avoid taxes (in deposition). Also it is not just that he had unfettered access to the police file he was given control of the file, the purported murder weapon and a surgery bullet removed from Lyndel Robertson’s liver he received from the shooting. He took the bullet and gun to England and had a friend Roger Summers coordinate the forensic testing at the company he worked Forensic Science Services. A Stephen Nicklin came from England to Chillicothe twice to testify. Needless to say this was all very dramatic.

    What gets lost though is that Deister was not a qualified homicide detective. He was a former vice cop who left his position in Platte County amidst the allegation he was promoting prostitution from the office. He ran deceptive stings. Deputy Calvert the lead investigator in the Woodworth case and the famous Copeland case recommended Deister as Judge Laura Stith points out, This shows the true intent of bringing in this man and that is to put a case on Mark Woodworth.

    Kenny Hulshof was present at Deisters 95 deposition which reveals he had sole possession of the gun and the bullet. He was not licensed, educated or experienced in investigation of this sort. Deister’s company which Lyndel signed a contract with of which he was eager to show because of the date it was signed was incorporated as an alarm company. At the deposition Mr. Hulshof would have learned that Deister had written letters to England pleading for positive forensic tests. Hulshof knew this nut ignored it in his closing where he said that the people doing the forensics were unbiased as they didn’t know the details of the case. This is simple not true. In the hearing in 2011 Hulshof claims to have no knowledge of matters that if you read that same deposition you will see the he would be very aware.

    The box of bullets that that they say they took Mark’s finger print from is imaginary. The murder was in 1990 yet no one mentioned any box until 92 after they got Marks fingerprints. David Miller testified he found a box of bullets at the trial in 95 yet he never filed a report that he found this box and he was the chief evidence officer of the Major Case Squad. His partner who was in the shed before him, where the box was said to be out on a workbench, would not testify that he saw a box. Nor would anyone else.
    Kenny Hulshof’s assistant David Cosgrove had David Miller draw a box on a photo of the bench in front of the jury!!! Rachel Smith duplicated this tactic in the second trial. In fact this is where I got suspicious and ordered up the original crime scene reports to see there was indeed nop mention of finding any box of bullets on the workbench.

    Marks conflicting statements were based around this box which at first he said he knew nothing about (Which would be true) but then when they told him they had di print on this box he questioned himself. Or his attorney did. Richard McFadin his attorney it is shown was working for both sides.

    There is great deal more of course.
    Documents can be found here.


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