by Lily Hughes
“I want to know why I’m still going to court at all.”
That’s what Jeannine Scott said at a recent Live from Death Row event in Austin, Texas. Jeannine was talking about the case against her husband, Michael Scott, who is facing trial for murder — even though DNA evidence taken from the crime scene doesn’t match his DNA or any of his co-defendants’.
Michael has been accused in a 10-year-old crime — the killing of four young women in an Austin yogurt shop. After eight years of an investigation that was plagued with leaks, false confessions, and insufficient evidence, four young men were arrested and charged. One was released. Robert Springsteen was convicted — in spite of a complete lack of physical evidence linking him to the crime — and sentenced to death. Michael and Maurice Pierce are still awaiting trial.
Police and prosecutors have played on public horror over the murders to compensate for their complete lack of physical evidence linking Springsteen, Scott, and Pierce to the crime.
A gun that was taken from one of the suspects and believed to be the murder weapon was cleared several times by ballistics testing. Plus, DNA evidence taken from the crime scene doesn’t match either the victims or the defendants. In other words, it could belong to the real killer — but the authorities aren’t making any attempts to find out who it does belong to.
Prosecutors are trumpeting “confessions” from the defendants — which were coerced. During Michael’s interrogation, a gun was held to his head. One of the lead investigators on the case, Hector Polanko, was also an investigator in the botched Pizza Hut case, in which Christopher Ochoa and Richard Danziger were convicted based on confessions alone, only to be released after 12 years in jail when they were exonerated.
Jeannine says that the hardest part of her ordeal has been “trying to make my daughter understand why they won’t let her daddy come home. She was three when this started, now she’s six. She just can’t understand.”
The Austin chapter of the Campaign has organized a petition campaign, rallies, meetings, and press conferences to make sure that the evidence of these men’s innocence comes out. As Campaigner Amanda Maystead said, “What is happening to these men is not justice, it is injustice. It must stop here.”