Judge sets Mo. man’s 3rd murder trial for July

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - A Missouri man whose murder convictions for the 1990 slaying of his neighbor have twice been overturned will go to trial for the third time in July, and a judge said Friday he planned to rule by early next week whether to remove the state attorney general's office from the case.

Mark Woodworth, 39, of Chillicothe, has been free on bail for nearly a year after the Missouri Supreme Court overturned his second conviction last January, saying prosecutors failed to share evidence that could have helped his defense. The ruling followed a similar conclusion by a Boone County judge who also recommended review by an independent prosecutor.

Woodworth was 16 when his sleeping neighbor, Cathy Robertson, was shot and killed Nov. 13, 1990, in a farm home outside Chillicothe, about 90 miles northeast of Kansas City. Her husband, Lyndel Robertson - the business partner of Woodworth’s father - also was shot but survived.

Woodworth was first convicted in 1995 of killing Cathy Robertson. That conviction was overturned on appeal, but a second jury found Woodworth guilty four years later and sentenced him to life in prison.

Soon after last year’s Supreme Court decision that set Woodworth free, Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster announced his office planned to seek a third trial.

At a hearing Friday in Platte City, where the case has been moved on a change of venue, Circuit Court Judge Lee Hull set a July 21 trial date. He also said he likely would have a decision Monday or Tuesday on a defense request to remove the attorney general from the case and appoint a special prosecutor.

Lyndel Robertson initially implicated his oldest daughter’s ex-boyfriend in a hospital interview after the shootings but later said he was mistaken. The investigation had stalled until Robertson hired private investigator Terry Deister, who in turn sent the bullet and weapon for review by a British ballistics expert.

The Missouri Court of Appeals’ Western District in November found that the suspected murder weapon and a bullet surgically removed from Lyndel Robertson’s liver two years later may have been improperly handled by Deister.

The investigator later teamed up with the Livingston County sheriff’s deputy overseeing the investigation - a move the Missouri Supreme Court said in a separate ruling led to “serious investigative misconduct.”

Woodworth’s attorney, Robert Ramsey, declined to comment after Friday’s hearing. The attorney general's office has accused him of trying to poison the prospective jury pool by talking about the case with news organizations and on social media.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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