UPDATE: Judge urges new trial in 1990 Missouri farm death

Tuesday, May 1, 2012 | 6:03 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — A Missouri judge ruled Tuesday that a man twice convicted in the 1990 slaying of a local farm wife was the victim of "a manifest injustice" and should have his conviction set aside.

Boone County Circuit Judge Gary Oxenhandler, who was appointed by the Missouri Supreme Court to review the case, said prosecutors failed to turn over key evidence to Mark Woodworth's lawyers. Woodworth was 16 when his neighbor, Cathy Robertson, was fatally shot while she slept in her rural home in Chillicothe, a farming community 90 miles north of Kansas City.

Woodworth, whose father farmed with Robertson's husband, wasn't charged until nearly three years after the shooting. Prosecutors based their case on the discovery of a single fingerprint found on an ammunition box inside Robertson's shed and a common manufacturing defect in his father's handgun. He was sentenced to life in prison.

"There was nothing fundamentally fair about the investigation of the Robertson crimes, or in turn, Woodworth's prosecutions and convictions for those crimes," Oxenhandler wrote in his 35-page ruling, the culmination of his work since a weeklong hearing in June.

Bob Ramsey, Woodworth's attorney, said he would petition the Supreme Court to have his client freed on bond while justices decide how to proceed. The high court will ultimately decide whether to grant a new trial.

"We won," Ramsey said. "I'm very gratified. I thought we presented some very strong proof that from the beginning, it was a frame-up."

Oxenhandler determined that state prosecutors failed to provide Woodworth's attorneys with copies of letters casting doubt on Woodworth's guilt that were sent to and from a judge, state and local prosecutors and the victim's husband, Lyndel Robertson, who also was shot but survived the attack in his home.

Oxenhandler determined that Livingston County Circuit Judge Kenneth Lewis "in effect, became a prosecutor," and he chastised the county sheriff for allowing a private investigator hired by Robertson to "inexcusably" lead the murder inquiry.

"Woodworth's constitutionally guaranteed judicial process was ignored," Oxenhandler wrote.

The prosecutor at Woodworth's first trial was Kenny Hulshof, who went on to serve six terms in Congress. But his career as a special state prosecutor was marked by a pattern of court rulings that questioned his courtroom behavior, and two men he helped convict for murder have since been released after judges cited prosecutorial misconduct by Hulshof.

Oxenhandler said that while he couldn't determine whether Hulshof and the subsequent state prosecutor, Rachel Smith, intentionally withheld evidence, it wasn't necessary to find intent.

One of the letters not disclosed by state prosecutors described how Lyndel Robertson "was adamant that we charge another young man." That letter was written by the local prosecutor at the time, Doug Roberts, who asked a judge to release him from the case because he didn't have solid evidence to charge Woodworth.

From his hospital bed after the shooting, Lyndel Robertson initially identified his oldest daughter's abusive ex-boyfriend as the likely shooter. Robertson later testified that he had not identified that man, who denied involvement, but instead named him as a possible suspect.

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

A spokeswoman for the Missouri Attorney General's Office, which is handling the Woodworth case, said the agency is reviewing the decision. The state has 30 days to file an objection or other responses to Oxenhandler's ruling.

Although more than two decades have passed since the shootings, interest in the case hasn't diminished in Chillicothe. A group of business owners, former state lawmakers and other community leaders have consistently proclaimed Woodworth's innocence, even as Lyndel Robertson and his five children remain convinced of Woodworth's guilt.

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Bill Ferguson May 1, 2012 | 7:57 p.m.

Judge/Prosecutor Crane Caught in Lie

It has been quite some time since we've sent out an update. Many of you keep up with what is going on in Ryan's case through Facebook, local news reports or the freeryanferguson website. As you probably know Ryan's 5 day habeas evidentiary hearing took place last week in Cole county. Ryan's attorney, Kathleen Zellner, presented many witnesses. The only two people to testify against Ryan during his 2005 trial (Chuck Erickson & Jerry Trump) have recanted their previous testimony and admitted they lied on the stand. Both also testified during last weeks hearing that Kevin Crane, the prosecutor at that time, aided and abetted in their fabricated testimony. Jerry Trump has everything to lose and nothing to gain by this admission. His testimony was very emotional. Not only did he cry but he also asked Ryan for forgiveness.
It is evident from the state's stance during Ryan's hearing that the prosecution is not interested in the truth nor are they interested in justice. They see it as their sole purpose to keep Ryan where he is and continue to perpetuate the lies that this case has been built upon. It was interesting to see them argue their case with nothing to back it up!
We feel very optimistic that the judge will rule in Ryan's favor. Each side will present their written summaries to Judge Green by June 15. Once he has these he can make his decision. He indicated that he would rule quickly. If that is the case, we could have a decision by mid to late July! There is not one shred of evidence or one witness that shows Ryan had anything to do with this crime. Our heart aches for the Heitholt family who has been deceived by the prosecution all these years. We wonder when they will finally see true justice for Kent.

Below we have included 3 links to YouTube videos which include Jerry Trump's and Chuck Erickson's testimony in last week's hearing to help you better understand the significance of the recantation of these two important witnesses.

Again, we want to thank each of you for your continued support in our on-going fight for justice.
Jerry Trump Admits he committed Perjury during Ryan Ferguson’s 2005 Trial
Kevin Crane, Judge/Prosecutor, caught in a BIG LIE!

Charles Erickson 2012 Habeas Hearing Testimony
Charles Erickson’s Interrogation One Hour After His Arrest

This video supports Erickson’s April 2012 Testimony that he does not remember what happen that night.

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