Koster should back off and help find the real killer
The Kansas City Star
Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster says he is committed to finding justice for the family of murder victim Cathy Robertson.
That is a worthy intention. Robertson’s shooting death in 1990 has troubled neighbors around Chillicothe, Mo., and Missouri’s criminal justice system ever since.
But Koster’s search for justice apparently will involve trying Mark Woodworth a third time, even though a judge who reviewed the case concluded Woodworth was the victim of a “manifest injustice,” and the Missouri Supreme Court agreed in a 6-0 ruling.
Koster’s quest would be better served by lending his resources to law enforcement authorities in Livingston County to finally investigate the case properly.
Woodworth was 16 when his neighbor Robertson was killed and her husband, Lyndel Robertson, seriously wounded while they slept. The case against Woodworth hinged on a single thumbprint on a box of bullets and a common manufacturing defect in a gun owned by Woodworth’s father. No plausible motive was ever put forth.
A jury convicted Woodworth in 1995, however. An appeals court overturned the verdict, finding that the defense had been denied an opportunity to present evidence about another possible suspect. But a second jury convicted Woodworth in 1999.
The mid-Missouri judge appointed to review the case, Gary Oxenhandler, recently found that crucial evidence had been withheld from the defense in both trials.
This case raises more disturbing questions about the work of Kenny Hulshof, who prosecuted Woodworth as an assistant attorney general and later was elected to Congress. Courts have declared two other defendants whom he prosecuted to be innocent.
Koster may not want to acknowledge it, but justice in Missouri has been flawed in some cases, and innocent people have been wrongly sent to prison. Mark Woodworth appears to be one, and yet another trial will only perpetuate the injustice in this case.