Man convicted, freed in yogurt shop murders seeks money for prison time

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by ASHLEY GOUDEAU / KVUE News

Bio | Email | Follow: @AshleyG_KVUE

kvue.com

Posted on May 24, 2013 at 2:07 PM

Updated Friday, May 24 at 6:17 PM

AUSTIN -- A man once sentenced to death in connection with the infamous 1991 yogurt shop murders has asked a federal court to clear his name.

Thursday, Robert Springsteen IV's attorney filed a petition in federal court to ask a judge to declare him "actually innocent." If the court complies, Springsteen could collect more than $700,000 from the state for wrongful imprisonment. 

The petition is filed federally rather than with the state because Springsteen lives in West Virginia. He lists the Susan Combs and the State Comptroller's Office as the respondent because that office would give him the restitution funds.

Any time a person is wrongfully convicted and then declared innocent, that person can receive restitution from the state. Because the courts overturned Springsteen's conviction, but did not declare him "actually innocent," he does not qualify to receive any money.

On December 6, 1991 someone murdered Amy Ayers, Jennifer and Sarah Harbison and Eliza Thomas at the I Can't Believe it's Yogurt shop on Anderson Lane in North Austin.

Investigators say they had been bound, gagged and shot in the head and whoever killed them set the building on fire.

Prosecutors charged Springsteen and another man, Michael Scott in 1999.

Springsteen was convicted in 2001 and sentenced to death. Scott was convicted in 2002 and sentenced to life. Governor Rick Perry commuted Springsteen's sentence to life in prison in 2005. 

In 2009, both men were released because they were not matches for DNA evidence collected at the scene.

Because Springsteen was never declared "actually innocent," he is not eligible for restitution. 

Springsteen requested compensation from the comptroller's office last year, but a spokesman for that office says he does not meet the requirements. That spokesman also says the Comptroller's Office has not yet been served with the petition.

According to Springsteen's attorney, once that office gets it, officials will have 20 days to respond.     

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