Missouri court overturns conviction in 1990 murder

Mark Woodworth, seen above on June 2, 2011 during a court hearing, had his murder conviction overturned Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2013.
AP Photo/Kelley McCall, File

(AP) JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - The Missouri Supreme Court on Tuesday overturned the murder conviction of Mark Woodworth, who was sentenced to life in prison for the 1990 slaying of Catherine Robertson, a neighboring farmer.

The court ruled prosecutors withheld evidence that may have benefited his Woodworth's defense.

The state's high court ordered Mark Woodworth released within 60 days of when its ruling is finalized, unless prosecutors decide to retry him. Woodworth was convicted of fatally shooting Catherine Robertson and wounding her husband, Lyndel Robertson, as they slept in their home near Chillicothe, about 90 miles north of Kansas City.

Woodworth, whose father farmed with the Robertsons, was 16 at the time of their deaths. He was convicted first in 1995 and, after briefly being released on appeal, was convicted by a second jury four years later.

But Woodworth's attorney argued in his latest appeal that the conviction was "tainted" by prosecutors' failure to turn over evidence, including copies of letters between a Livingston County judge, prosecutors and Lyndal Robertson that could have cast doubt on Woodworth's guilt.

From his hospital bed, Lyndel Robertson initially identified his oldest daughter's ex-boyfriend - not Woodworth - as the likely shooter, according to court records. But Robertson later testified that he named the ex-boyfriend - who has denied involvement - only as a possible suspect.

The Supreme Court's decision follows a recommendation made last May by Boone County Circuit Judge Gary Oxenhandler that Woodworth's conviction be set aside. Oxenhandler had described Woodworth as a victim of "a manifest injustice."