- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 25, 2014

ST. LOUIS (AP) - The case of a Chillicothe man facing a third murder trial in his neighbor’s shooting death now has its 11th prosecutor.

On Tuesday, a Platte County judge appointed Liberty lawyer and retired Clay County judge Don Norris as special prosecutor in the case of Mark Woodworth, whose two previous convictions were overturned on appeal.

Norris replaces Livingston County Prosecutor Adam Warren, who asked to be removed after family members of shooting victim Cathy Robertson told him they were concerned about his ability to be impartial.

Less than a month ago, Platte County Circuit Judge Owens Lee Hull Jr. barred the Missouri Attorney General’s Office from trying the case for a third time due to previous prosecutorial missteps, ruling that the case requires an independent review “by a prosecutor unburdened by past participation.”

Woodworth, 39, has been free on bail for the past year after the Missouri Supreme Court overturned his second conviction in Robertson’s 1990 death, saying prosecutors failed to share evidence that could have helped his defense.

Norris, now a private practice lawyer, was an associate circuit judge for eight years and also spent six years as Clay County’s elected prosecutor. He could not be immediately reached for comment Tuesday.

Members of the Robertson family reacted favorably to Norris‘ appointment.

“Two juries have convicted Mark on the fingerprint evidence, defendant’s statements and ballistics evidence … We believe if we can get this evidence before a new, unbiased jury, with a capable prosecutor, a third jury will reach the same conclusion,” Rhonda Robertson Oesch, one of Cathy Robertson’s five children, said in a written statement.

Woodworth’s attorney Bob Ramsey said he trusts that Hull “has appointed someone who will fairly and objectively review the case before making any decisions” - including whether to further prosecute Woodworth.

Cathy Robertson was fatally shot on Nov. 13, 1990, while she slept in a farm home outside Chillicothe, about 90 miles northeast of Kansas City. Her husband, Lyndel Robertson - a business partner of Woodworth’s father - also was shot but survived. He initially identified another suspect from his hospital bed but later said he was only speculating.

Woodworth was 16 when Cathy Robertson died. He was first convicted in the death in 1995, but that was overturned on appeal. A second jury found him guilty four years later and sentenced him to life in prison.

Hull’s call for an independent review followed a similar conclusion in 2012 by Boone County Circuit Judge Gary Oxenhandler, who also recommended a review by an independent prosecutor and called Woodworth’s earlier convictions a “manifest injustice.” Oxenhandler was appointed to examine the case by the state Supreme Court.


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