Since Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg in 2009 dismissed all charges against Robert Springsteen in connection with the notorious 1991 yogurt shop murders, Springsteen has twice sought compensation from the state for being wrongfully convicted of the quadruple murder. Twice he's been denied. Now he's taking his case to federal court.
In a petition filed May 23 in federal district court, Springsteen argues that he has been "dangling under the sword of Damocles" ever since October 2009, when charges against him and another defendant, Michael Scott, were dismissed in connection with the grisly murder of four teen girls inside a North Austin yogurt shop. The charges against Springsteen have been dropped, but without a declaration that he's actually innocent, state Comptroller Susan Combs, whose office administers state funds that compensate the wrongfully convicted, has now twice declined to release funds.
The charges against Springsteen and Scott were dropped after new DNA testing revealed the profile of an unknown male, taken from inside the youngest victim. That profile, found in 2008, has not been matched to any suspects, and its presence directly contradicts the so-called "confessions" Austin police obtained from Springsteen and Scott, in which they implicate each other and two others, but make no mention of a fifth man. Springsteen and Scott have each said repeatedly that the confessions were coerced after hours of intense questioning by Austin detectives. Springsteen was sentenced to die for the murders – a sentence overturned after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that juvenile offenders could not face execution. (Springsteen and Scott were both teens at the time of the crime.) Scott was sentenced to life in prison. To date, the case remains open and unsolved.
Springsteen "was not involved in these crimes and is absolutely innocent," reads the lawsuit, filed on his behalf by Austin lawyer Broadus Spivey. (Former state Judge Charlie Baird and attorneys Amber Farrelly and James Hackney have also signed onto the case.) Because he is no longer incarcerated, Springsteen cannot prove his innocence via the appeal process and has "exhausted" any administrative remedies. Now he is asking the federal court to hold a hearing and to declare him "actually innocent of the crimes for which he was wrongfully imprisoned" for roughly nine years, including four on death row. The lawsuit also asserts that Springsteen is due more than $700,000 in compensation and other benefits earmarked for the wrongfully convicted.
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