The Austin Chronicle

Supremes Deny Review of Springsteen Case

By Jordan Smith, March 2, 2007, News

The U.S. Supreme Court on Feb. 26 denied Travis Co. prosecutors' request to review the case of Robert Springsteen IV, who was convicted in connection with the infamous 1991 yogurt-shop murders. The conviction was overturned last May, after the state Court of Criminal Appeals finally – after the case sat on their docket for nearly three years – ruled his conviction was tainted by the trial court's improper ruling that allowed prosecutors to use written portions of another defendant's "confession" as evidence of Springsteen's guilt, in violation of his Sixth Amendment right to cross-examine witnesses.

In 2004, Justice Antonin Scalia ruled, in a case styled Crawford v. Washington, that the Constitution demanded defendants be afforded the right, without exception, to cross-examine their accusers – a ruling that ultimately (should have, at least) quashed any hope prosecutors might have had that their wiggling with the Sixth Amendment in Springsteen's case might actually pass constitutional muster. Nonetheless, the CCA sat on the case for another two years before citing Crawford to toss the case back into the lap of Travis Co. District Attorney Ronnie Earle.

The Supremes' Monday ruling means prosecutors must either retry Springsteen or set him free. Not surprisingly, prosecutors have said they will opt for the former, vowing to retry Springsteen – though without the bolstering confession of defendant Michael Scott (who was sentenced to life in prison for his role in the crime) it is hard to imagine how they'll manage to secure another conviction. Indeed, there are major problems with the state's case – including the existence of physical evidence at the crime scene that does not match any of the four victims or the four men accused of the crime, and the dearth of evidence tying Springsteen to the crime, save for partially inculpating statements he made to police in 1999 after hours of interrogation.

For more on Springsteen and the yogurt shop case, see Somebody Has to Die," June 15, 2001.

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