MO: Multiple Murder Convictions Overturned on Account of Prosecutor’s Misconduct

In 1990, Cathy Robertson was murdered in her Jefferson City home. Her 16 year old neighbor and family friend, Mark Woodsworth, became a suspect in her death and was ultimately tried and convicted of murder.

Mark Woodsworth’s case is the third in which a Missouri court has vacated a murder conviction because of prosecutorial misconduct committed by former prosecutor-turned-Congressman Kenny Hulshof.

On January 8, 2013 in a 6-0 decision, the Supreme Court of Missouri adopted the findings of a district court judge who ruled last May that Hulshof and his prosecutorial team withheld exculpatory evidence from Woodsworth.

The Kansas City Star reports:

It was only later that an Associated Press reporter researching the state’s case found a series of letters written before Woodworth’s first trial… The letters disclose that [surviving victim] Robertson initially insisted that his daughter’s former boyfriend be prosecuted for the shootings.
 
…“This would have provided important support for the defense’s argument that the investigation of Mark was one-sided and highlighted that the evidence against him was weak and circumstantial,” the court stated.
 
The court also found that Woodworth’s defense should have been told that the other potential suspect had violated a protection order obtained by the Robertsons’ daughter.
 
Those reports could have bolstered the defense argument that the other man had “motive and opportunity” to commit the shooting while rebutting the state’s claim that the man never had threatened the daughter.
 

Hulsholf was also involved in the prosecution of Dale Helmig, whose conviction was overturned by a Missouri Circuit Court in 2010, and of Joshua Kezer, whose conviction was also overturned by a Missouri Circuit Court a year earlier, in 2009. A 2011 Kansas Star article notes:

In at least 13 murder cases, defense lawyers have alleged misconduct by Hulshof or others involved in prosecutions that he either assisted or led. In six of those, courts have thrown out convictions or overturned death sentences. In a seventh case, Missouri’s governor commuted the defendant’s death sentence to life in prison.
 

In the Kezer case, the Associated Press reported that Judge Richard Callahan wrote “a stinging rebuke of Hulshof,” saying he “withheld key evidence from defense attorneys and embellished details in his closing arguments.”

Writing for the Hit & Run Blog, Radley Balko recounts the court’s findings in both the Helmig and Kezer cases that Hulsholf had committed grave misconduct leading to the men’s wrongful convictions. Balko asks why, after numerous findings of misconduct, Hulsholf has been allowed to pursue his political career unscathed. Read the post here.

Today, the state filed a motion with the Missouri Supreme Court to retry Mark Woodworth for the murder of Cathy Robertson.

Retiring from his political career after  six terms in Congress, Kenny Hulsholf now works as an attorney and lobbyist for Polsinelli Shughart LLP in Washington D.C. We have no reason to believe that Hulsholf has been held to account for committing prosecutorial misconduct in the above-mentioned cases.

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