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Free Man From Life Sentence Or Retry Him

darius norvilas.jpg
darius norvilas

The Missouri Supreme Court agrees without dissent that a Northwest Missouri man was twice unjustly convicted and sentenced to life.

A Supreme Court order says free Mark Woodworth or put him on trial a third time.

Woodworth is 38 now. He was 16 when a jury  convicted him of killing rural Chillicothe, Mo. farm neighbor Cathy Robertson and wounding her husband. But there were letters between a judge, prosecutors and the wounded man that might have helped Woodworth’s defense. And he never saw them.

That was the finding of a judge appointed by the Supreme Court to investigate.  Judge Gary Oxenhandler of Boone County Circuit Court termed the case a “manifest injustice.”

Woodworth’s original conviction was reversed on appeal. He was tried again, convicted again.

Kansas City attorney Jim Wyrsch defended Woodworth in the first trial and tries to imagine his situation now, more than two decades after he was first sentenced to life, “if you’re serving a sentence that the facts may indicate, to a large degree at least at this point, that you didn’t do it, I can’t imagine  it doesn’t have some effect.”

Woodworth has been described as a near-model prisoner in his 22 years behind bars.

The Missouri Supreme Court found Woodworth must be freed within 60 days of when the court ruling becomes official, unless there are plans to put him on trial again.

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