We Will Keep Fighting This Unjust System

By: Kathleen Feyh

Here in Austin, Texas, we’ve been organizing around the Michael Scott murder trial. Scott was accused, along with Robert Springsteen (now on Texas death row) and Maurice Pierce (awaiting trial) of killing four girls in a local yogurt shop in 1991. There was no physical evidence linking any of the defendants to the crime--all the state had to go on were the confessions of Scott and Springsteen, which there is reason to believe were coerced by Austin police. The murders went unsolved for eight years, until police focused their attention on the three men, whom they arrested in 1999.

The case was riddled with misconduct throughout. Police made the facts of the crime scene fit their theory--and spent hours interrogating the three. At one point during the questioning, Scott had a gun held to his head by one of the detectives. The interrogators pressured, pushed and fed details to the three, until their confessions matched the police’s version of what happened.

Anyone who thinks that during a capital murder trial, the burden of proof should be on the state should have seen the trial of Michael Scott. The jurors, a number of them in tears, returned a guilty verdict after six weeks of a trial and more than 20 hours of deliberation. During the brief penalty phase of the trial, prosecutors screamed for blood. But jurors didn’t agree that Scott poses a future danger, and therefore, he received an automatic life sentence with the possibility of parole after 35 years.

Jeannine Scott, Michael’s wife and a Campaign activist, views the results of the trial as a partial victory. The Campaign held public meetings about the case beginning a year ago and held weekly pickets and numerous press conferences during the trial. We showed up to the hearings, wearing solidarity ribbons and making statements about the case wherever and whenever possible. And while we are disgusted by the verdict, we are glad to have been a part of keeping one more innocent person off Texas’ death row.

Texas continues to provide grievous injustices of the criminal system--its racism, corruption and bias against the poor--and we will continue to fight it.