Attorneys for a Missouri man facing retrial for a 1990 killing have accused prosecutors of misleading the judge about the availability of a key witness.
Because of that and other previous issues relating to withheld evidence, the defense is asking that the pending charges against Mark Woodworth be dismissed.
The witness is a British ballistics expert who in previous trial testimony linked a gun owned by Woodworth’s father to the killing of Cathy Robertson and the wounding of her husband in their farm home outside Chillicothe, Mo.
Woodworth, who was 16 when the killing took place across the road from his family’s home, has been convicted twice in the murder. Both convictions have been overturned on appeal, most recently in January by the Missouri Supreme Court. He is now free on bond pending a third trial.
In April, the Platte County judge assigned by the Supreme Court to preside over the case threw out much of the state’s ballistics evidence, citing what he termed the state’s disregard for properly handling and documenting the evidence.
The Missouri attorney general’s office is appealing that ruling and also asked the judge to reconsider his order.
Prosecutors asked the British expert to examine the gun and bullet evidence after two local experts could not conclusively make a link between the gun and a bullet surgically recovered from the body of Cathy Robertson’s husband, Lyndel Robertson, in 1992.
But during recent pretrial preparations, when Robert Ramsey, who is leading Woodworth’s defense, sought to question the British expert, prosecutors said they had been unable to find the expert. They asked that he be declared unavailable for trial and sought to have his previous trial testimony read at the new trial.
In a motion filed Monday, Ramsey said that he found the expert in a matter of minutes by doing an Internet search of the man’s name. He followed that with an email that the expert promptly answered, according to Ramsey’s motion.
“Thus, these circumstances clearly indicate that the state made no attempt to locate (the witness),” Ramsey alleged. “The state misrepresented to the court and the defense that they had made significant but unsuccessful efforts to locate (the witness) when they had not.”
He accused the state of attempting to gain an advantage by having the expert’s testimony read to a jury, which would prevent any cross-examination on issues that the expert was not questioned about previously.
The attorney general’s office had no comment Tuesday. It will respond to the motion in writing, according to a spokeswoman.