PLATTE CITY, Mo.– A Platte County judge picked July 21st for the third murder trial of Mark Woodworth during a motion hearing on Friday. The Chillicothe man has been convicted twice of murdering his neighbor in 1990, only to have both convictions overturned.
Woodworth walked out of court on Friday a newlywed. The man freed in 2013 after serving 17 years for the murder of his neighbor, Cathy Robertson, got married three weeks ago.
Woodworth and his attorney decided not to speak after a strong hint from the judge at Friday’s hearing. But Woodworth’s newest supporter, Ryan Ferguson, who had his murder conviction vacated in November of 2013, spoke plenty.
“We’re just happy to be here and support him and his family, cause what they’re dealing with, we feel that pain, we feel that struggle,” Ferguson said.
Ferguson was freed after serving 10 years in prison for the murder of Columbia Daily Tribune newspaper editor Kent Heitholt. Now he’s making prosecutorial misconduct a personal cause.
“Anytime we see injustice, we have to fight against that. We have to stop people from going in. You see what it takes to get them out, it costs hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars,” Ferguson said.
Rhonda Oesch is the daughter of Cathy Robertson and remains convinced Mark Woodworth is guilty. She says Ryan Ferguson is supporting the wrong guy.
“Ryan probably feels like he’s looked at all the documents involved, but he’s being force-fed them by the defense,” Oesch said.
Ferguson disagrees and said that he doesn’t believe the state has been forthright.
“To me it’s sad that the state is dragging them through this, because in my opinion, they’re not getting the full truth from the state,” Ferguson said.
Woodworth’s defense team is asking the judge to kick the Missouri Attorney General’s Office off the case and appoint a new prosecutor because of what the defense called, “years of withholding evidence.”
In the meantime, the attorney general’s team said the judge needs to bus a jury in from a distant county because of pre-trial publicity.
“I feel like that would be the best thing, because after all, that’s what everyone wants is an unbiased jury,” Oesch said.
The judge will make his decision about the jury and disqualifying state prosecutors next week. He’s already decided to dismiss ballistics evidence against Woodworth. If the state doesn’t get that evidence reintroduced, the big question will be if they still try Woodworth for a third time.