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State says Mo. case’s witness dispute a moot point

KANSAS CITY (AP) — State prosecutors on Wednesday responded to a northwest Missouri murder defendant’s allegation that they misled the judge about a key witness’ availability, saying they acted in good faith while trying to locate the British ballistics expert whose testimony helped convict Mark Woodworth twice.

Woodworth’s attorneys want a Platte County judge to dismiss the charges after the Missouri Attorney General’s Office said the expert witness couldn’t be located and wasn’t available for a third trial. Woodworth’s legal team said it found the expert with a simple Internet search.

The state’s response cites its pending appeal of a ruling that threw out much of the ballistics evidence.

Woodworth, who is free on bond, was 16 when his sleeping neighbor, Cathy Robertson, was shot and killed in 1990 in a farm home outside Chillicothe. 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.

Platte County Circuit Judge Owens Lee Hull Jr. dealt another blow to the state’s efforts in April when he found “egregious, flagrant, cavalier disregard for evidentiary procedures and processes” in the handling of forensics evidence. The Missouri Court of Appeals is expected to hear the state’s appeal of that decision, which prosecutors said renders the defense’s dismissal request a moot point until the appeal is resolved.

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.

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

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

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