Family members, friends, and supporters of Mark Woodworth, who has been behind bars for most of the last 20 years, gathered at the Livingston County Sheriff's office Friday afternoon to welcome home someone whom they say was wrongfully convicted and never should have gone to prison in the first place.
Woodworth, 38, was released on a $50,000 bond as the state considers whether to retry him for the 1990 shooting death of Catherine Robertson and the criminal assault on her husband, Lyndel. This would be Woodworth's third trial.
Woodworth arrived at the sheriff's office around noon, being transported from the Daviess DeKalb County Regional Jail, and exited the building around 1 p.m., walking into a sea of media members, relatives and supporters.
“I am overwhelmed,” Woodworth said, noting that there were a lot of things to do and see now that he has been released. He hugged many people in the group.
“I am thankful for all the support,” he said.
Woodworth's attorney Robert Ramsey said Woodworth did not get a fair trial either time, largely because the prosecution suppressed information that would have supported his defense. Part of that information included letters among the county prosecutor, the circuit judge and Lyndel Robertson.
Woodworth said he was looking forward to getting something good to eat and seeing the dogs that he had trained while in prison.
“I can't wait to see them,” Woodworth said.
Ramsey thanked several people who helped make Woodworth's release occur, including Associated Press reporter Alan Zagier, who drew attention to the suppressed correspondence.
Ramsey has been Woodworth's attorney since 2002 and said that he had never handled a case such as Woodworth's. “It feels like a big weight has been lifted off my shoulders,” Ramsey said. “It is a very moving experience to me.”
The Missouri Attorney General's office has indicated that it plans to retry Woodworth.
In a statement issued just before Woodworth's release, Missouri Attorney General Press Secretary Nanci Gonder stated that the office will follow a standard protocol, filing the necessary paperwork to preserve the rights of the county that initially requested prosecution.
“Second,” she said, “there is a thorough review of the evidence to ensure the evidence has been preserved by the local jurisdiction and that retrial remains a legally responsible decision.”
“Lastly, this office makes a final decision regarding the appropriateness of continued prosection,” she stated.
Gonder also stated that it was important to note that the Supreme Court did not find the defendant innocent.
“The judge found that discovery errors occurred that call into question the reliability of the verdict,” she said.
Robertson family members are confident that a third trial will have the same outcome as the first two for Woodworth.
Page 2 of 2 - “Our family stands united in our pursuit of justice for the murder of our beloved Cathy Robertson,” the family said in a prepared statement. “While we believe Mark Woodworth should spend his life behind bars for brutally murdering our mother, Cathy Robertson, and critically assaulting our father, Lyndel Robertson, in 1990 while they were sleeping in their bed, we are prepared to see a third trial through to conclusion.”
“Since 1990, our family has lived through a nightmare caused by Mark Woodworth,” the family continued. “If seeking justice for the murder of Cathy Robertson takes a third trial and 100 years, we will do what it takes to hold Mark Woodworth accountable for his actions.”
Woodworth's next court appearance is April 18, in Platte County. Ramsey said that he plans to file motions questioning the integrity of several pieces of evidence, including the bullet, the gun, and the fingerprint found on a box of bullets.
Assistant Attorney General Kenny Hulshof served as special prosecutor on Woodworth's case. His courtroom conduct has since been questioned in other cases, including the case involving Dale Helmig, who was convicted of murder and later freed. Helmig was incarcerated at Crossroads Correctional Center, had become friends with Woodworth, and attended Woodworth's bond hearing on Wednesday.
Woodworth was indicted by a Livingston County grand jury in 1993 and then convicted in 1995 and sentenced to a total of 31 years in prison. He was later released on appeal, but convicted by a second jury in 1999 and given four life sentences. Woodworth has maintained his innocence since his indictment. He was 16 at the time of the shootings. Woodworth's father, and Lyndel Robertson were partners in a farming operation.