A Cameron lawyer’s ethics complaint against a Livingston County Circuit judge has been rejected. Attorney Michelle Puckett-Burkhead had accused Judge Brent Elliott of removing and destroying questionable records from two case files in DeKalb County, just one day after he won the August 2012 Missouri Primary Election. Puckett-Burkhead said she first noticed Elliott’s “unethical” behavior after she made a campaign contribution of $500 to his opponent Bill Burris.
One of the files Elliott allegedly mishandled contained records related to the Mark Woodworth murder case. The Chillicothe resident was twice convicted of murder in the 1990 shooting death of his neighbor, Cathy Robertson. He was serving a life sentence when the Missouri Supreme Court overturned the second ruling in early January. One month later, Woodworth was released on bond. The state is preparing to try him for a third time.
Elliott served as a private attorney at the time of the initial Woodworth investigation. Puckett-Burkhead and Woodworth’s attorney, Robert Ramsey, accused Elliott of misplacing one document in particular. In an exclusive interview with KMZU News in March 2013, the two lawyers said the file contained an order of protection by Cathy’s daughter, Rochelle Robertson against her then-boyfriend, Brandon Hagan (Thomure). The file was later found in another county. The two attorneys said Elliott was the attorney of record at the time.
Puckett-Burkhead and Ramsey also allege that Grand Jury transcripts and case files involving Jim Johnson could also not be found in the Woodworth’s case files. Johnson, according to the special master’s report, was a “full-time, small-time thief specializing in stealing farm products, grains and chemicals in Livingston and adjacent counties.” Johnson reportedly had testimony that would incriminate Woodworth.
In all, Elliott was accused of misconduct in at least four separate cases (Standiford v. Standiford, Ashford v. Merkley, State v. Gross, and State v. Woodworth). The Commission on Retirement, Removal and Discipline cleared the judge of wrongdoing, according to Elliott’s attorney.