Appeals court throws out key evidence in Woodworth re-trial - Montgomery Alabama news.

Appeals court throws out key ballistic evidence in Woodworth re-trial

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A state appeals court said the Missouri Attorney General's Office cannot use key ballistics evidence used to previously convict Mark Woodworth of murder at the Chillicothe man's third trial in his neighbor's 1990 death.

The Missouri Court of Appeals' Western District on Tuesday upheld a Platte County judge's April ruling that a bullet surgically removed from shooting survivor Lyndel Robertson may have been tampered with by a private investigator hired by the victim. Lyndel Robertson survived but his wife did not.

Woodworth was first convicted of killing Cathy Robertson in 1995. That conviction was overturned on appeal in 1997, but a second jury found Woodworth guilty in 1999 and sentenced him to life in prison. The Missouri Supreme Court overturned his second conviction in January over evidence it said Woodworth and his previous lawyers never received.

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster is reviewing Tuesday's decision, and his next course of action.

Woodworth is now home with family and contemplating his first holiday season with them in years.

"It was great news, it's just another step closer to my freedom," Woodworth told KCTV5. "It's been 14 years since I was able to celebrate a Christmas with my family. So I'm looking forward to it."

Despite Lyndel Robertson's early accounts that it was his daughter's boyfriend, Brandon Hagan, in the house at the time of the crime, Woodworth, then 17, was arrested and tried for the murder.

Woodworth's attorney Bob Ramsey said small-town cronyism and politics stood in the way of a fair trial.

"Winning at any cost. Hiding evidence from the defendant because I believe he's guilty and I'm entitled to do that," Ramsey said in explaining the prosecution's mindset.

Court documents showed the Robertsons' disapproved of their daughter's relationship with Hagan. Ramsey said he was a prime suspect back in 1990.

Then, Missouri Attorney General, Jay Nixon, appointed a special prosecutor to oversee the case.

"It's the most pressure that a defense attorney can possibly have – to represent somebody he believes to be innocent," Ramsey said.

While Woodworth enjoys his freedom, but he knows he faces more challenges.

I'm out on bond, I'm limited to a few things," Woodworth said.

The 37-year-old is both quiet and unabashedly optimistic. But those around Woodworth, like his legal team, are constantly reminded of what's at stake.

"I wouldn't want to look at myself after it was all over and say I didn't do this or I should've done this, and it's my failure that sent an innocent man to prison. It's an awesome responsibility and it's scary," Ramsey said.

A trial date has not yet been set. Woodworth is seeking to have his case transferred from Koster's office to the Livingston County Prosecutor's Office.

The Robertson family issued the following statement to KCTV5:

The Appellate Court ruling today was nothing more than a decision denying the procedure used to appeal the trial court's order. This is not a victory for the defense. And this decision does not deter our family from seeking justice for the murder of our mother, Cathy Robertson. We continue to believe that when the third jury sees the evidence against Mark Woodworth, they too will convict him of murder, just like two other juries have.

Copyright 2013 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) and the Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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