Woodworth defense finds 'unavailable' witness

Attorneys for a Chillicothe man facing a third murder trial are seeking the dismissal of charges, saying the prosecution misled the judge about the availability of a key witness and that it's part of a pattern of withholding evidence.

Mark Woodworth, who is free on bond, was 16 when his sleeping neighbor, Cathy Robertson, was shot and killed. Her husband Lyndel Robertson, the business partner of Woodworth's father, also was shot but survived. Woodworth's two previous convictions were overturned on appeal, most recently in January when the Missouri Supreme Court found that Woodworth and his previous lawyers never received some evidence.

The Kansas City Star (http://bit.ly/14H3N7s) reports that the latest issue is tied to the prosecution asking to have a British ballistics expert declared unavailable for trial and his previous trial testimony read at the new trial. Already, a judge threw out much of the state's ballistics evidence, citing improper handling and documentation. The Missouri attorney general's office is appealing that ruling.

In previous trial testimony, the ballistics expert linked a gun owned by Woodworth's father to the killing. 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 removed from Lyndel Robertson.

Woodworth's defense said in a motion filed Monday that it took minutes to find the expert using the Internet and that the man quickly responded to an email.

"Thus, these circumstances clearly indicate that the state made no attempt to locate (the witness)," said Robert Ramsey, who is leading Woodworth's defense. "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."

Ramsey 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 said it will respond to the motion in writing, according to a spokeswoman.

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