Saturday, June 27, 2009

Austin Candlelight Vigil and Protest to Mourn those Killed in Iran

700 people gathered at the Pfluger pedestrian bridge in Austin, Texas on June 23 to mourn those killed and injured in Iran. Youtube link.

Austin Protest Against Election Fraud in Iran. Youtube link.

In light of the tragic and blatantly fraudulent presidential elections in Iran, Iranian citizens of Austin came together to hold a peaceful demonstration at the Texas Capitol on Wednesday, June 17, 2009 in solidarity with the people of Iran and to show their disappointment with and disapproval of the election results.

As you have likely seen in the news, there has been an outpouring of protest over the past few weeks from the Islamic Republic of Iran and from Iranians around the world over the June 12th presidential election there which is widely believed not to have been fair or democratic. The Iranian government is using brutal tactics to crack down on protesters and shutting down their means of communicating with each other.

The universities have also been closed down and party leaders have been detained or are under house arrest. Cell phones have been cut off and the internet has been slowed down enough so as to become useless. There is fighting in the streets and scenes that are reminiscent of the 1979 revolution. The event is being called the coup detat of 22 Khordad (June 12th).

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Videos on Release of Yogurt Shop Defendants Mike Scott and Robert Springsteen

Below is also a video of a report from KXAN. If you can not see it below, click here to watch on YouTube. Thank you to KXAN for putting all their news clips on YouTube, instead of just on their own website. All other local news stations should put clips on YouTube too.

From the New York Times:
Mike Scott and Robert Springsteen, awaiting retrial in the 1991 slayings of four teenage girls at an Austin yogurt shop, were released from jail, while prosecutors search for a match to new DNA evidence that did not come from either of them. The original convictions of the men, Michael Scott and Robert Springsteen, were overturned. New DNA tests on evidence taken from the victims revealed the presence of an unknown male. Defense lawyers said that proved the innocence of Mr. Scott, 35, and Mr. Springsteen, 34. Prosecutors insisted that the DNA did not exonerate them and said that both still face capital murder charges. The order by Judge Scott Lynch of State District Court for the men’s release came in a hearing on Mr. Scott’s retrial. Prosecutors asked that the trial be delayed until 2010 while they try to determine the source of the DNA. Conditions of their release include avoiding contact with witnesses or the victims’ families.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Join the Austin CEDP Action for Rob and Michael


Members of CEDP Austin are headed to the courthouse RIGHT NOW with a banner--to talk to the media, have a presence and demand DROP THE CHARGES NOW!

Not doing anything right now? Go and join them. Call to find out where they're at: 512-417-2241.

Breaking News: Yogurt shop defendants to be released on bail

Finally after 10 years in prison and in a stunning development, Judge Lynch has ordered the Yogurt shop defendants to being released on bail. If you are free please come to the Travis County Court House to welcome Michael Scott and Robert Springsteen. Statesman's report:

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.

Michael Scott.
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.

Robert Springsteen.
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.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Journey of Hope in Magdeburg, Germany

By Daniela Turß (author of the article) and Insa Nieberg (translation) - both Amnesty International Magdeburg

On Thursday the 14th of May 2009 the „Journey of Hope“stopped in Magdeburg. Three speakers from the United States shared their personal experiences with the death penalty with the audience at the Otto-von-Guericke University.

Bill Pelke is a relative of a victim, Terri Steinberg the mother of a man sentenced to death whereas Ray Krone was released from death row after he was proven innocent.

The event was organized by the local group of the NGO amnesty international under the patronage of the Initiative against the Death Penalty. This lecture was the only one in the federal state of Sachsen-Anhalt and the group experienced a rush on the seats available in the lecture room.

Tickets were sold out right at the beginning of the presentation as more than 120 students of all faculties seized the chance to learn more about the personal stories connected to the death penalty. The following two hours were filled with emotional yet balanced presentations that were summarized and translated by interpreters. All the points of views added up to a coherent picture: Death penalty continues the spiral of violence that was triggered by the initial crime in the first place. While convicts are often forced to wait in agony for more than ten years, relatives are in a situation between hope and desperation. At the same time hatred and desire of revenge have faded away- the only thing that prevents relatives of victims to draw a line is the fact that the judgment is still outstanding and not enforced.

Bill Pelke described his change of attitude from being an advocate of the death penalty to becoming a strict opponent. Being the grandson of a woman that was murdered by a group of young girls, he helped to turn the death sentence of the murderer, a girl who was only 15 years old at the time, into a lifelong sentence by founding the initiative “Journey of Hope”. This group informs people in the US, but also worldwide about the background of the issue and supports persons concerned.

Ray Krone, who had the doubtful honor of being the 100th innocent person to be released from death row, told the audience about this desperate struggle against the machinery of law. The story told made all so clear, what a parlous effect a lack of financial means can have on the quality of advocacy. The experience of Krone also illustrates the practice of some attorneys to insistently demand death penalty although evidence is insufficient.

As Krone was not able to afford an attorney, he was represented by an assigned counsel. This attorney was not able to use the countless evidence for Krone’s innocence in the first trial. Although the foot and finger prints found at the site of crime where not those of Krone, he was sentenced to death in his second trial. Ten years later he was eventually able to prove his innocence by a DNA-analysis. Ray Krone states: “There were times when I believed that no innocent man or woman is sentenced to death in the United States- however, by now I have lost every faith in the system of law.” Up to this day he has not received any compensation for the years spent in death row.

Terri Steinberg told the story of her son Justin, who was sentenced to death under dubious circumstances, because he was accused of initiating a contract murder. In this case, there is evidence of innocence as well- the most striking one is a letter in which the murder admits that Justin did not charge him with killing the man and that he made this statement in order to plead in mitigation.

Terri Steinberg is convinced that her son was not involved in the crime and therefore fights with devotion against the sentence of death that shall be executed within the next 12 months.

The conviction drastically changed the life of the family and their lives in the community of a suburb. While Terri tries hard to guarantee a comparably normal life for her other children, she needs all hope not to give in and continue her campaign.

The audience understood this when they saw Terri telling her story with tears in her eyes. It is especially her presentation that makes evident the emotions involved for the speakers when they tell their stories over and over again.

The stories told and emotions shared left the audience shocked and deeply moved. Some took the opportunity to ask Bill, Terri and Ray further questions, whereas others gathered around tables outside in order to sign various petitions.

The “Journey of Hope” was the biggest and most impressive event organized by the local amnesty group so far. It showed that scientific analysis cannot fully grasp the issue of death penalty – the stories of the speakers added more personal and very emotional aspects that illustrated the devastating effects of the spiral of violence connected with the death penalty.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sharon Keller's Trial to Be Held in San Antonio Instead of Austin

Counsel for the State Commission on Judicial Conduct and Judge Sharon Keller have agreed to hold the trial of Judge Sharon Keller in San Antonio, instead of Austin. The trial will be held in the newly renovated courtroom of David Berchelmann, Jr, presiding judge of the 37th District Court, 100 Dolorosa, San Antonio, Texas 78205. Berchelmann has been appointed "special master" by the Texas Supreme Court to conduct the hearing on the charges against Keller.

Texas Moratorium Network filed one of the judicial complaints against Keller and that was co-signed by about 1900 people. We wrote the Commission and urged them to hold the hearing in Austin because "Austin is the capital, the CCA is located in Austin and Austin is more centrally located for people from all parts of Texas who may want to attend, including any people from North Texas who signed on to the complaint we filed with the State Commission". However, we were told that the agreement has already been reached with counsel.

The State Commission has also sent Judge Keller an amended notice of formal proceedings.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

‘Dead Man Walking’ Nun and Author Sr. Helen Prejean will Appear on Talk Show To Fight For Life

On Friday, June 12th, Sr. Helen Prejean, CSJ will appear on the CatholicTV talk show “This is the Day” as an in-studio guest. Sr. Helen is the author of the book “Dead Man Walking”, which inspired the film of the same name starring Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon. This film depicts Sr. Helen’s interactions with a death row inmate.

CatholicTV is a nationally-broadcasted television station headquartered near Boston. The broadcast streams live 24 hours a day at

On “This is the Day”, Sr. Helen will discuss the movie and the book “Dead Man Walking”. Susan Sarandon won an Academy Award for Best Actress in this film. Sr. Helen will also discuss her new book “The Death of the Innocents”. This new book walks readers through the cases of 2 death row inmates who were “convicted of murder on flimsy evidence”. Sr. Helen describes in detail the moments before their deaths and how she witnessed their executions.

During her television interview, Sr. Helen will also discuss the Death Penalty Discourse Network which aims to “deepen and broaden the discourse about the death penalty.”

She will also discuss the “Dead Man Walking School Theatre Project”. This project is a program which offers and promotes the play “Dead Man Walking” (written by Tim Robbins) to schools and universities with the aim of “deepening reflection on one of the key moral issues of our day.”

Sr. Helen also plans to write a book about her spiritual journey against the culture of death.

Also featured on “This is the Day” will be sisters Elyse Marie Ramirez, OP, and Sister Lovina Francis Pammit, OSF, vocations directors in Illinois and coordinators of “the Nun Run” in Chicago. “The Nun Run” is a 24-hour visit of various religious orders in which women are allowed to explore a potential vocation to religious life.

These guests can be seen on Friday, June 12th live at 10:30AM (EST) on CatholicTV where available (rebroadcast at 8PM). The show will also be streamed live at and will be available on the site’s archives starting Friday night. All videos at the website are viewable in full-screen. Paste this URL into your browser in order to access the “This is the Day” video archives.

About CatholicTV:
CatholicTV provides family-friendly, religious, news, and educational programming 24 hours daily. Founded over 50 years ago, CatholicTV is available in selected areas on cable in the United States and Canada, via Sky Angel and online via a live stream anytime, everywhere at the station's web site Father Robert Reed, a priest of the Archdiocese of Boston, is the Director of CatholicTV. Click here to paste this into your browser to find out how to watch CatholicTV where you live:

“This is the Day” can also be seen on demand at or downloaded via The hosts, Father Robert Reed, and Jay Fadden discuss various topics of the week and respond to viewer mail (you may email the show at

Today in History: The Massacre at Lidice

On 10 June 1942, German Police Units destroyed the Czech town of Ledice (LED-ECHEE), shooting 167 male inhabitants, and sending the women and children to concentration camps. The town was razed off the map, plowed under, and all trace of it was obliterated. After the war, I believe only seven children were reunited with their mothers.

This act of capital punishment was the vengeful response of Nazi Germany for the murder of Reinhardt Heydrich, Obergrüppenfürher in the SS, and Butcher of Prague. In total over 1000 people were beheaded or shot as punishment for the assassination of Heydrich. The officer in charge of the proceedings, Frank, was hanged by the Czechs after the war, although the actual man in charge of the executions, Max Rostock, was killed on the Russian Front.

After this horrible day in history, these draconian measures turned out to be counter-productive; it united the Czech people into an underground against the Nazis, and produced an outpouring of condemnation for the Nazis. The atrocities committed at Ledice shocked the world as an example of vindictive and vengeful capital punishment at its worst. The supreme irony was that the actual assassins were already dead, having committed suicide days before.

On 10 June 1940, "the hand that held the dagger struck into the back of its neighbor." Italy invaded France and was promptly beaten back.



For more information about Reinhard Heydrich visit

Monday, June 08, 2009

Bob Ray Sanders on the 200th Execution Under Rick Perry

Bob Ray Sanders devotes his Sunday column to the 200th execution under Governor Rick Perry. Here are a few excerpts:

Last Tuesday, as the state of Texas prepared to execute Terry Lee Hankins, people gathered in several U.S. cities and on two continents to mark a milestone in Rick Perry’s tenure as governor.

Hankins, by no means a sympathetic character because of his gruesome crimes, became the 200th person to be executed in Texas since Perry has been in office. He was the 16th to be put to death by the state this year.

To mark the occasion, anti-death penalty protests were held in Huntsville; Austin; Houston; Albuquerque, N.M.; Paris; and Leipzig, Germany (TMN Note: Montreal, Canada and Brussels, Belgium too)

Texas is notorious throughout the world for the number of executions it carries out each year, raising fears that the state has made mistakes and that innocent people likely have been killed in the death chamber.

He also mentioned one of the speakers at the Huntsville protest that came down from Nacogdoches.

One of the speakers at the Huntsville protest last week was Jerry Williams, a sociology professor at Stephen F. Austin State University, whose sister was beaten to death on Mother’s Day morning in 1985. Her assailant was given life in prison, but was released on parole after serving 15 years in prison.

"I hated him," Williams said. "I wanted to see him die. I wanted to see him suffer in prison. And I thought justice would be done only in that way. But what I realized over time was that my hate really diminished me. It damaged me and did nothing for him."

To watch a YouTube video of Williams speaking in Huntsville, click here.

He also reports on a report from Amnesty that said:

Texas, where about seven percent of the U.S. population resides, and where fewer than 10 percent of murders occur, has accounted for 37 percent of the country’s executions since 1977, and 41 percent since 2001, when Governor Perry came into office."

It went on to point out, "There were 152 executions in Texas during the nearly six years of the [George W.] Bush governorship (1995-2000). Now looming is the 200th execution during Rick Perry’s term in office. The combined total of more than 350 executions in Texas under these two governors represents 30 percent of the national total since executions resumed in the USA in 1977. Virginia is ranked second to Texas in executions. In 30 years, Virginia has killed 103 people in its death chamber, half the number put to death in Texas in eight. This is geographic bias on a grand scale.

He ends with:

"How many of the 200 people executed under Perry’s watch were innocent?" asked Scott Cobb, president of Texas Moratorium Network, which helped organize the protests. "Perry could have taken a large step to reduce the risk of executing an innocent person if he had supported a moratorium on executions. Now, he may have to answer for the execution of Todd Willingham, who most likely was innocent of the arson/murders for which he was executed in 2004."

Below are a few videos from the Huntsville protest.