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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Travis DA Has 72 Hours to Hand Over Results of DNA Testing in Yogurt Shop Case

In 72 hours, we should know the results of new DNA testing in the Yogurt Shop case. The testing could exonerate the two people held in the murder of four teenaged girls.

The Austin American Statesman's Claire Osborn reports

State District Judge Mike Lynch today gave prosecutors 72 hours to turn over oral reports on DNA evidence to defense lawyers in the infamous yogurt shop murders. The state had ignored a court order from May 28 to produce the reports, said Dexter Gilford, an attorney for Michael Scott.

Scott is one of two defendants facing retrial on capital murder charges in the 1991 deaths of four teenage girls at an I Can’t Believe It’s Yogurt store in North Austin. Prosecutor Efrain De La Fuente said at a pretrial hearing today that the state thought it was supposed to wait until the final written reports were ready on the DNA evidence before giving them to defense lawyers. The final reports are not yet ready, he said.

Gilford said during today’s hearing that prosecutors had known about DNA test results since the middle of April. He asked Lynch to order the state to turn over the oral DNA reports immediately but Lynch refused. Lynch said he would give prosecutors three days because he was giving the state “the benefit of the doubt” for not turning over the reports earlier.

Prosecutors had said in April that they had ordered new DNA testing of swabs taken from the body of Amy Ayers, one of the victims, in preparation for the retrial of Scott and defendant Robert Springsteen. Previously undiscovered DNA was found, according to prosecutors, and it did not come from Scott or Springsteen or two men initially charged as co-defendants: Forrest Welborn and Maurice Pierce.

A lawyer for Springsteen, Joe James Sawyer, blasted the state after today’s pretrial hearing for not letting the public know whose DNA was identified in the testing. “The silence is deafening,” Sawyer said.

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