Woodworth attorneys seek testimony from Gov. Nixon

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) - A Chillicothe man facing a third murder trial in his neighbor's 1990 death wants Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon to testify about his involvement in the case when he was the state's top prosecutor.

Attorneys for Mark Woodworth filed a legal motion Monday seeking to depose the two-term Democratic governor, who spent 16 years as Missouri attorney general.

Woodworth's 1995 conviction for shooting to death farm wife Cathy Robertson in her sleep was overturned on appeal. A second jury found him guilty four years later and sentenced Woodworth to life in prison. The Missouri Supreme Court overturned that conviction in January over evidence it said he never received -- a series of letters between a Livingston County judge, state and local prosecutors and Cathy Robertson's husband Lyndel, who was wounded in the attack but survived.

Defense attorney Bob Ramsey said he wants to learn more about Nixon's oversight of former state special prosecutor Kenny Hulshof, who was appointed to the case after Livingston County prosecutor Doug Roberts refused to file charges and boycotted a grand jury hearing.

Hulshof went on to serve six terms in Congress and win the Republican nomination for governor in 2008 before losing to Nixon. Hulshof's prosecutorial record has since come under scrutiny after a succession of court rulings questioning his courtroom behavior, and two men he helped convict for murder since have been released after judges cited prosecutorial misconduct by Hulshof.

Court transcripts from Oct. 15, 1993, show Nixon accompanied Hulshof to the grand jury hearing.

"I think we're entitled to inquire as to whether the attorney general at the time approved of all this," Ramsey said, referring to the exchange of letters cited by the state Supreme Court as well as a Boone County judge appointed to look into the case. "The circumstances don't look too good."

A Nixon spokeswoman referred a request for comment to the office of Attorney General Chris Koster, whose own spokeswoman did not immediately respond to an interview request.

The effort to depose Nixon -- by subpoena, if necessary -- comes one week after Platte County Circuit Judge Owens Lee Hull Jr. ruled that a bullet surgically removed from Lyndel Robertson's liver and the gun Woodworth reportedly used could have been improperly handled by a private investigator while it was sent overseas for examination by British forensic scientists.

That investigator wound up secretly leading the Livingston County Sheriff's Office inquiry that led to Woodworth's first conviction.

Woodworth was a 16-year-old high school dropout when Cathy Robertson, 41, was killed. Woodworth helped his father and Lyndel Robertson on their farm, where the men and their families had moved together from western Illinois. The families severed their ties after the shooting.

On Friday, Koster's office filed a notice with the court of its intent to appeal Hull's decision to disallow the use of the ballistics evidence. Hull concluded that "there has been an egregious, flagrant, cavalier disregard of evidentiary procedures and process." He singled out private investigator Terry Deister's "especially odious" role in the case and the investigation's "laser-like focus on one individual -- Mark Woodworth."

Woodworth has been free on bail since February.

Lyndel Robertson initially said he thought his oldest daughter's abusive ex-boyfriend played a role in the shooting, but later said he was only offering a suggestion, not an identification. As the unsolved case dragged on, Robertson complained to a Livingston County judge about the refusal of then-county prosecutor Roberts to file charges. Deister also helped his client write that letter.

The letters were first publicly disclosed by The Associated Press in 2009 as part of an investigation into the Woodworth case and Hulshof's prosecutorial record.

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