Two more exonerations in Texas! Nov 2, 2009 22:43:32 GMT -5
Post by pumpkinpie on Nov 2, 2009 22:43:32 GMT -5
Judge dismisses case against Springsteen, Scott
Updated: 10/28/2009 10:12 PM
By: Kevyn Oakes and Danielle Bauman
State District Judge Mike Lynch stuck by his word Wednesday afternoon. He dismissed defendants Michael Scott and Robert Springsteen after the Travis County District Attorney's Office said it was still not ready for trial.
Lynch issued orders back in August for the prosecution to announce to the court their good faith determination of a jury trial date.
The prosecution said Wednesday afternoon it knew Judge Lynch would not grant a continuance on the basis that it was still conducting DNA testing. The prosecution said it has not yet been able to identify the DNA donor and "see
Police arrested Michael Scott and Robert Springsteen in 1999 after they both confessed to the 1991 murders of four teenage girls. The girls were found bound, gagged and shot at the I Can't Believe it's Yogurt Shop in North Austin.
Both defendants said their confessions were coerced and improperly used to incriminate the other during their respective trials.
Two other men were arrested in connection to the murders, but those cases were dismissed due to insufficient evidence.
In late June, Lynch stated that if the prosecution sought to delay the trial further, he would release the two remaining defendants from jail.
One day later, he released Scott and Springsteen under a $100,000 personal recognizance bond after attorneys argued new DNA evidence exonerated their clients.
Wednesday, the court granted the state's motion to dismiss each indictment for each defendant. Both defendants were also discharged from further bonds related to this case.
Police and the district attorney said they still believe Scott and Springsteen are guilty of killing 13-year-old Amy Ayers, 15-year-old Sarah Harbison, and 17-year-olds Eliza Thomas and Jennifer Harbison.
News 8’s Russell Wilde has more on the dismissal of Michael Scott and Robert Springsteen.
A mother’s reaction
News 8’s Bob Robuck talks with Barbra Ayres-Wilson, the mother of two victims in the yogurt shop murders.
In a press conference after the case was dismissed, Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg said her office planned to proceed, pending further investigation into the unknown DNA found at the scene.
"We are convinced that these that these men had something to do with this," Lehmberg said.
According to Lehmberg, there is no statute of limitations for murder, so the DA's office will continue the investigation with Scott and Springsteen as primary suspects in the case.
"We don't want to proceed because we are trying to avoid double jeopardy," Lehmberg said.
Lehmberg said more than 100 people have been tested with the new Y-STR profile method. Y-STR is a DNA test that looks only for male DNA or the Y-chromosome.
During a 2008 DNA testing, the state found an unknown male profile in the evidence from the crime. The DNA did not match any of the four suspects originally charged with the crime, including Springsteen and Scott.
The DA's office said the DNA comparisons have cost around $220,000, and there is no limit on the amount they will spend. They said they can use general or discretionary funds to continue the effort.
Currently, there is no Y-STR profile database to compile DNA samples for investigations.
Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo joined Lehmberg in the press conference. He said his sympathies go out to the victims' families.
Acevedo also advocated for more DNA testing in Travis County. He said that all criminal DNA should be obtained, no matter how small of a case, to prevent further instances like this.
Lehmberg said the families are sad but optimistic and strong.
The DA said the main problem in the investigation is not the DNA, but that the crime scene was contaminated with thousands of gallons of water.
The district attorney's office plans to prosecute again when it has more evidence.
Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg said they planned to proceed, pending further investigation.
Until then, however, Springsteen and Scott are "free to do whatever they want," Lehmberg said.
Springsteen's lawyer Joe James Sawyer said they were thankful to Lehmberg for her courage, and that there was no victory gained in the dismissal of these cases.
He said the primary question has not been answered and he hopes one day Travis County can see the true criminals found guilty.
"We have your DNA, sooner or later we will match your face to this DNA," Scott's lawyer Carlos Garcia said.