State District Judge Mike Lynch this morning ordered yogurt shop murder defendants Michael Scott and Robert Springsteen released from jail pending trial after postponing Scott’s previously scheduled July 6 re-trial at prosecutors’ request.
Travis County prosecutors said they wanted more time to determine whose DNA was found in March 2008 in vaginal swabs taken from 13-year-old victim Amy Ayers. That DNA was later found in another teenage victim.
Defense lawyers for Scott opposed the request, saying they feared that prosecutors would use it to find additional evidence against their client.
Michael Scott’s wife, Jeannine Scott, said she is happy her husband is coming home after almost 10 years behind bars, but nothing short of a dismissal of charges will satisfy her.
“It’s just another tactic, it’s another delay,” she said. “The evidence already shows they have the wrong men.”
At a press conference, Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg read from a statement that said, in part: “The reliable, scientific evidence in the case presents one, and one only, unknown male donor. Given that, I could not in good conscience allow this case to go to trial before the identity of this male donor is determined, and the full truth is known.
“I remain confident that Robert Springsteen and Michael Scott are both responsible for the deaths at the yogurt shop but it would not be prudent to risk a trial until we also know the nature of the involvement of this unknown male.”
Lehmberg was joined at the press conference by Police Chief Art Acevedo and other police and prosecutors.
“Of course I am concerned about their being at liberty,” she said. “I think they are guilty of horrible murders. But I ultimately believe that the successful prosecution of them hinges on making this decision.”
Acevedo said that he supports Lehmberg’s decision to seek a continuance in the case.
“We do believe we have the right suspects in custody,” he said.
After the press conference, Acevedo said his detectives are continuing to work the case, talking to friends and associates of defendants Scott and Springsteen to see if they know anything about the case.
“I told my investigators, our department strongly supports them” and will provide whatever resources they may need, Acevedo said.
In a stunning new development in the Yogurt Shop murder case, State District Judge Mike Lynch issued an order in which the two defendants in the case will be released from jail, possibly as soon as today.
Travis County prosecutors were granted a motion for a continuance in the capital murder re-trial of Michael Scott.
Lynch then announced he intended to keep a promise he made in a court order Tuesday that he would release Scott and co-defendant Robert Springsteen from jail.
Both will be released under $100,000 personal recognizance bonds.
Both men are awaiting new trials after their prior convictions in the case were overturned because confessions they made to police were improperly used to incriminate the other.
The state said it needs several more months to prepare, possibly until the beginning of next year.
Lynch said he did not anticipate the prosecution motion for a continuance but granted the motion after calling for a recess.
Upon returning to the bench, Lynch ordered that Scott and Springsteen be released on their own personal recognizance.
When both men walk out of jail, it will be the first time in a decade they have enjoyed some form of freedom in a legal case spanning 18 years.
At one time, Springsteen sat on death row and Scott had been condemned to life in prison.
Legal experts, who have studied the case, said they can't remember any other capital murder cases where suspects were given such an option.
Police arrested Scott and Springsteen on capital murder charges in 1999. In December of 1991, four teenage girls were bound, gagged and shot at the I Can't Believe it's Yogurt shop in North Austin.
Both men confessed to the crime, but later recanted.
Springsteen’s lawyer, Joe James Sawyer, said he would have favored a trial.
"There is no question that we would prefer trial,” he said. “I want them acquitted and free for the rest of our lives."
Scott’s wife, Jeannine, said she wants peace for everyone involved.
"The big day for me is when 12 people declare my husband not guilty so this nightmare for our family is over and the state can start pursuing the actual perpetrator and give those girls families some peace and the truth."
Jury selection is set to begin in Scott’s re-trial July 6.
News 8's Catie Beck will bring you a complete recap of the day's events later Wednesday.
Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg Thursday issued the following statement:
Today I requested a continuance in the case against Michael Scott, a defendant in the Yogurt Shop murders, whose trial was scheduled to begin on July 6th. Judge Mike Lynch granted that motion but also released both Michael Scott and Robert Springsteen on personal bond, as he indicated he would do in his previous scheduling order.
Requesting a delay in the case was a difficult decision but one that I believe is the best course toward an ultimate successful prosecution of this important matter.
Knowing that Judge Lynch would release both defendants, we requested certain conditions on their bonds, requiring them to remain in Travis County and report to the Court any change of residence, to have no contact with the victims’ families or witnesses, that they not carry weapons or consume alcohol or illegal drugs, that they report to the Court on a routine basis and attend all court appearances.
As you know, both Springsteen and Scott were convicted by juries in June of 2001 and September of 2002. Their convictions were then overturned by the appellate court, but their statements to law enforcement were found to be voluntarily given.
Since the original trial of these two men, new developments in DNA technology have become available. As we prepared for retrial, in March of 2008, we submitted various evidentiary items for what is called YSTR testing. This test looks for male DNA only and is deemed to be the most accurate test for samples that are mixtures of female and male DNA, as in this case.
We sought this testing because we have an ongoing duty and responsibility to use the most up to date science available, to seek the truth in this and all the cases we prosecute.
Currently, it is clear to me that our evidence in the death of these four young women includes DNA from one male whose identity is not yet known to us. The defense asserts that the testing reveals more than one unknown male, but the evidence presented at the hearing on Thursday, June 18th contradicts that notion.
The reliable scientific evidence in the case presents one, and one only, unknown male donor. Given that, I could not in good conscience allow this case to go to trial before the identity of this male donor is determined, and the full truth is known. I remain confident that both Robert Springsteen and Michael Scott are responsible for the deaths at the Yogurt Shop but it would not be prudent to risk a trial until we also know the nature of the involvement of this unknown male.
My office and the Austin Police Department remain committed to these cases. Their further investigation will continue to be a priority. My commitment to the victims, their families and this community is that we will not give up until all of the people responsible for these terrible and tragic murders are brought to justice.