The Missouri Supreme Court handed down a decision Tuesday afternoon that could have a significant impact on the future of a Chillicothe man. Mark Woodworth’s murder conviction was vacated and the high court ruled that prosecutors withheld evidence, favorable to his defense. KMZU’s Kristie Cross reports:
Mark Woodworth has been in prison for nearly two decades for the 1990 murder of Cathy Robertson. Special Master Judge Gary Oxenhandler ruled in 2012 that Woodworth was the victim of a “manifest injustice” and he asked the Missouri Supreme Court to overturn the verdict. Woodworth’s case went before the high court in early-October and the findings released Tuesday have asked for Woodworth to be released from prison within 60 days of when the ruling is finalized, unless prosecutors decide to retry him.
Woodworth’s attorney, Robert Ramsey said it’s not over yet and the case will see more activity in coming days. “He is in the custody of the respondent, who is Larry Denney, the Warden at Crossroads [Correctional Facility], until the state makes a decision on whether to retry Mark. I know there have been other cases where [the court] has entertained a motion for bond and that is what we will be filing right away. We plan to ask for a recognizance bond, meaning he would get out on his promise to be in court.”
Woodworth was twice-convicted of fatally shooting Robertson and wounding her husband, Lyndel, as they slept in their home near Chillicothe. He was first tried and convicted in 1995. Four years later, on an appeal, he was found guilty by a second jury. Since that time, he has been serving a life sentence and could be forced to take a seat at the defense table for a third time.
Following the October hearing, Susan Ryan, a spokesperson for the Robertson family, said they continue to have faith that justice will be served. “We have every confidence that the Missouri Supreme Court will review the actual evidence that was used to convict Mark Woodworth not once, but twice.” Ryan chose not to be interviewed Tuesday and instead issued the following statement on behalf of the family:
Written by Rhonda Robertson Oesch (the daughter of Cathy Robertson)
While the criminal justice system has failed Cathy Robertson, we as a family will continue to pursue justice on her behalf. Twenty four jurors and more than a dozen Missouri Appellate Court judges believed Mark Woodworth was properly convicted of murder, and so do we.
In 1990, our mother Cathy Robertson was brutally murdered and our father Lyndel was critically injured by Mark Woodworth. In 1995, a jury convicted Woodworth of murder. In 1999, a second jury convicted Woodworth again. We have every confidence that when the evidence is presented to a new jury, they too will convict Mark Woodworth of murder.
In 2012, my family met with Attorney General Christ Koster to discuss this case. At that time, he committed to retry Mark Woodworth for murder in the event Mark Woodworth was granted a new trial. I spoke to his office today, and Mr. Koster stands by his commitment to ensure justice is served on behalf of Cathy Robertson. We are grateful for his courage to see that Mark Woodworth is held accountable for murdering our mother.
It is also important to note that Mark Woodworth was not exonerated in this court opinion.
If the Missouri Supreme Court believed Mark Woodworth was innocent, he would have been exonerated. His sentence was vacated because of an alleged technical error. That is not justice.
Throughout this case, Mark Woodworth has failed to prove anything other than a keen ability to blame and disparage the reputations of every judge, law enforcement officer, prosecutor, defense attorney, juror and Robertson family member associated with this case.
Since 1990, our family has lived through a nightmare caused by Mark Woodworth. We will stand strong and united in the next phase of this tragic situation. We have faith in the Attorney General’s Office and in the future jurors who will again review the evidence against Mark Woodworth.
Update (1:45 p.m.) – A Chillicothe man, twice-convicted of murder, could see the outside of a jail cell after spending nearly two decades behind bars and embroiled in controversy. The Missouri Supreme Court has overturned the conviction of Mark Woodworth, who had been sentenced to life in prison for the 1990 slaying of Cathy Robertson. The state’s high court released their ruling Tuesday saying that prosecutors withheld evidence that could have helped Woodworth’s case. Woodworth was convicted of fatally shooting Robertson and wounding her husband, Lyndel, as they slept in their home near Chillicothe. The court ordered Woodworth to be released from prison, unless prosecutors decide to retry him.
Update (1:30 p.m.) – Mark Woodworth’s attorney Robert Ramsey said he’s preparing to file a motion to set bond. Those documents could be filed as early as Tuesday afternoon. Click to hear KMZU’s Kristie Cross talk with Ramsey just moments after the Supreme Court released their minutes from the October hearing:
Original Story: The State Supreme Court has handed down a ruling in the case of Chillicothe resident Mark Woodworth. In the decision released just minutes ago, the court agreed with the Special Master’s ruling on Brady violations and ordered that Woodworth’s convictions be vacated. They have ordered him to be discharged from the Department of Corrections unless the state elects to retry him. We will continue to follow this breaking story throughout the afternoon. Click below to read the Missouri Supreme Court’s full report: