Missouri rebuffs defense allegations involving expert witness in Mark Woodworth case

Prosecutors acted in good faith in attempting to locate a witness in the pending retrial of a Missouri man accused in a 1990 killing, officials said this week.

Prosecutors in the case of Mark Woodworth asked a judge to throw out a defense motion to dismiss charges, according to documents filed this week in Platte County Circuit Court. Woodworth’s lawyers earlier argued that prosecutors had made no attempt to locate a British ballistics expert who once had been a critical witness against their client.

In previous trial testimony, the expert had 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, has been convicted twice in the murder. Both convictions have been overturned on appeal. He is free on bond pending a third trial.

His lawyers said they located the expert after a few minutes of Internet searching, showing that “the state made no attempt to locate” the witness.

Assistant Attorney General Julie Tolle said in her response that defense lawyers never had expressed any urgency about finding the British expert, who had been excluded as a witness in the retrial.

Tolle said her office had used some old telephone numbers to find the expert, but without success.

But scheduling a new deposition is pointless until an appeals court rules on whether the expert’s testimony is admissible at Woodworth’s third trial, Tolle argued.

“(T)here has been no need established to depose (the witness) because he is presently excluded as a witness,” Tolle wrote.

Defense lawyers have twice cross-examined the expert, who has performed no new examination of the evidence since the last trial, Tolle argued.