State v. Woodworth

Citation941 S.W.2d 679
Decision Date25 February 1997
Docket NumberNo. WD,WD
PartiesSTATE of Missouri, Respondent, v. Mark WOODWORTH, Appellant. 51103.
CourtCourt of Appeal of Missouri (US)

James R. Wyrsch, Wyrsch, Atwell, Mirakian, Lee & Hobbs, Kansas City, for appellant.

Jeremiah W. (Jay) Nixon, Attorney General, Jefferson City, Philip M. Koppe, Assistant Attorney General, Kansas City, for respondent.

Before ELLIS, P.J., and LOWENSTEIN and LAURA DENVIR STITH, JJ.

LAURA DENVIR STITH, Judge.

Mark Woodworth appeals his convictions by a jury of the murder of Catherine Robertson, assault in the first degree on her husband Lyndel Robertson, burglary and two counts of armed criminal action. He was sentenced, respectively, to consecutive terms of 10, 5, 10, 3, and 3 years imprisonment.

We reject defendant's contention that the prosecution failed to make a submissible case because it could show only that his fingerprint was on a box of shells which may have been used in the crime, but could not show that the fingerprint was not placed on the shell box at a time other than the time of the murder. We find that the question of when the print was placed on the box of ammunition was a jury question, and that the fingerprint evidence, when combined with the other evidence in the case, made a weak but submissible case against defendant.

We remand for a new trial, however, because of error by the trial court in excluding evidence that another person had motive and opportunity to commit the crime. This evidence was admissible as substantive evidence because there was direct evidence linking that individual to the crime in that Mr. Robertson stated prior to trial that this was the one who had shot him. While at trial Mr. Robertson denied making the earlier identification, his prior inconsistent statements were admissible as substantive evidence on this point and provided an adequate foundation for admission of the other evidence allegedly inculpating the other individual. We reject defendant's other claims of error in regard to the indictment, the instructions, argument of counsel, and admission of evidence.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

At about midnight on November 13, 1990, Lyndel and Catherine Robertson were shot while in bed at their home outside of Chillicothe, Missouri. Mrs. Robertson was shot once in the neck and once in the chest. Mr. Robertson was shot three times in the face and once in the right shoulder. The couple was discovered shortly after midnight by their youngest daughter, Roxanne, who found her mother lying still in the bed and her father on the floor throwing up blood. Roxanne woke up her older sister Rhonda who immediately ran to her parents' room where she found her father lying on the floor near the bed. Her mother was lying in the bed covered with blood. Rhonda dialed 911 and gathered her three siblings together in the living room.

When the paramedics arrived, they found Mrs. Robertson lying dead in the bed with blood on the walls and the sheets. A subsequent autopsy revealed that Mrs. Robertson died from two small caliber gunshots to her head and chest. Mr. Robertson was found lying on the floor groaning. He spit out a bullet fragment which was turned over to the Livingston County coroner. Broken teeth and a bullet fragment were also found in the bed. Mr. Robertson was taken to the hospital where another bullet fragment was extracted from his tongue. One of the bullets had entered Mr. Robertson's left ear, passed through his shoulder, punctured his lung, and lodged near his liver. That bullet was later removed and turned over to ballistics experts.

A sheriff's deputy, who arrived at the scene soon after the paramedics, found no signs of forced entry. The house had not been ransacked, and money was lying out in the open in the living room.

Two or three hours after the shooting, the county coroner and prosecuting attorney went to the house of Claude Woodworth, who lived about one-eighth mile from the Robertsons and who was in a farming partnership with them. Claude Woodworth's son, Mark Woodworth, was sixteen years old at the time of the shooting and lived at home with his parents and siblings. He was described at trial as being "slow in school." He was able to work for the partnership farming operation, but was generally not paid for his services. To avoid confusion, at times we will refer to the father as "Claude" and to the defendant, his son, as "Mark."

The Woodworths told investigators that Mr. Robertson kept a .22 caliber Ruger pistol in his pickup truck, and that the Robertson gun was identical to one they owned. Claude Woodworth went to his bedroom and retrieved his pistol to show to the coroner and prosecutor. They examined the weapon and returned it to Claude. Mark Woodworth knew where his father's pistol was kept and sometimes used it for target practice. He and many others involved in the farming operation also were aware of the presence of Mr. Robertson's .22 in the Robertson truck. They had used Mr. Robertson's .22 for target practice on a number of occasions, including one occasion a few weeks before the shooting. They were aware that Mr. Robertson kept .22 shells in a box in his truck. Mr. Robertson also kept boxes of .22 shells under a cigar box on a workbench in the machine shed where he parked his truck. The shed was located about 100 yards from the Robertson house.

About twelve hours after the shooting, investigators examined the Robertsons' machine shed. The shed door, which Mr. Robertson had closed the previous night, was open. Three boxes of .22 caliber ammunition were found in the open on top of the workbench. Several bullets were missing from a box of high velocity .22 caliber long rifle bullets. Investigators dusted the box for fingerprints and found a clear thumbprint on it.

There is evidence that while in the hospital Mr. Robertson told a number of people, including his friends John Quinn, Tom Woodworth, Claude Woodworth, Marvin Meusick, Joe Neal Williams and John Williams, as well as his physician Dr. Fraser, police officer Jim Lightner and others, that a former boyfriend of his daughter named Brandon Thomure was his assailant or that he had seen Brandon assault him. It is alleged that Mr. Thomure had physically abused the Robertsons' daughter Rochelle, that Rochelle had been impregnated by Mr. Thomure, that Rochelle had terminated that pregnancy, and that not long before the shooting Mr. and Mrs. Robertson had offered to buy Rochelle a new car if she would break up with Mr. Thomure. A witness said that he had seen a strange car in the Robertson's driveway on the night of the shooting. The day after the shooting, the police examined Mr. Thomure and found evidence of gunpowder residue on his hands.

Three days after the shooting, two police officers arrived at the Woodworth house and asked if they could conduct ballistics tests on Claude's .22 caliber Ruger pistol. Claude Woodworth gave the officers the gun. Ballistics tests were conducted on both the Woodworth and Robertson pistols. The tests revealed that the lands and grooves of both pistols were consistent with the recovered bullet fragments. The police returned Claude's pistol on March 25, 1991.

Despite the initial leads and investigative activity, no arrests were made for some 20 months after the shooting. During that period Mr. Robertson became frustrated with the lack of progress and hired a private investigator named Terry Deister. Mr. Deister, joined by Gary Calvert, chief deputy and investigator for the Livingston County Sheriff's Department, went to the Woodworth home on July 4, 1992, while Mr. and Mrs. Woodworth were out of town. They asked Mark Woodworth to accompany them to the Sheriff's office. They advised of his Miranda rights and questioned from 8:10 p.m. until 12:32 a.m. The police took Mark's fingerprints during this interview. They later found his fingerprint matched the print found on the box of .22 caliber shells in the machine shed.

Mark was not arrested. Instead, on July 14, 1992, Deputy Calvert returned to the Woodworth home with a search warrant for Claude Woodworth's pistol, which he seized. In August of 1992, the bullet lodged near Mr. Robertson's liver was removed. Ballistics experts tested this bullet against bullets test fired from Claude's pistol. These experts discovered that Claude's pistol had a manufacturing defect that left a distinct mark on fired bullets. The experts later testified that 150 to 1000 barrels could have been manufactured with that particular defect. Moreover, a forensics examiner found that the bullets recovered from the victims had the same brass wash coating and "swage mark" as the bullets in the Robertson's machine shed. So far as it appears from the record, however, none of the experts tested Mr. Robertson's .22 to see if it also had the distinctive manufacturing defect displayed by Claude Woodworth's gun.

Neither Mark nor anyone else was arrested for the next 9 months. Finally, however, on April 11, 1993, some two and one-half years after the murder, Deputy Calvert and Mr. Deister returned to the Woodworth home. They once again asked Mark to accompany them to the Sheriff's office. He was again advised of his Miranda rights and was questioned for another four hours. He was then allowed to leave.

During this and his prior interview, Mark denied knowing anything about the shooting. He told Deputy Calvert and Deister that he had been in the Robertsons' machine shed a few times but that he had never noticed any .22 shells in the shed, that he had never touched the shells in the shed, and that they would not find his fingerprints or handprints on the shells. He later softened his statements, however, by stating that it was possible that he had picked up shells when in the shed to help Mr. Robertson and simply not noticed what he was touching. H...

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    ...separation of powers issues in determining whether an administrative agency usurped the judiciary's role); State v. Woodworth , 941 S.W.2d 679, 697 (Mo. App. W.D. 1997) (finding a party failed to develop his argument to support the contention "that because the juvenile officer is appointed ......
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    ...offender is limited to determining whether in the totality of the circumstances the court abused its discretion. State v. Woodworth , 941 S.W.2d 679, 697 (Mo. App. W.D. 1997) (citing In Int. of A.D.R. , 603 S.W.2d 575, 580-81 (Mo. banc 1980) ). We also review a trial court's admission of ev......
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    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • October 1, 2013
    ...his convictions, and this court reversed his convictions and remanded for a new trial due to evidentiary error. State v. Woodworth, 941 S.W.2d 679 (Mo.App. W.D.1997). In our opinion, we did note, however, that the trial court did not err in denying Woodworth's motion for discovery into alle......
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1 books & journal articles
  • A dangerous mix: mandatory sentence enhancements and the use of motive.
    • United States
    • Fordham Urban Law Journal Vol. 32 No. 3, May 2005
    • May 1, 2005
    ...Constitutional and Policy Dilemmas of Ethnic Intimidation Laws, 39 UCLA L. REV. 333, 365 (1991). (14.) See, e.g., Missouri v. Woodworth, 941 S.W.2d 679 (Mo. Ct. App. 1997) (stating that "[p]roof of motive is not essential to a conviction, however, and thus the lack of proof of motive does n......

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