May 25, 2001: While the capital murder trial of Robert Springsteen IV -- the first of three defendants to be tried in the infamous "yogurt shop murder case" -- draws to a close, one witness remains incarcerated downstairs in the Travis County jail for contempt of court.
On May 14, Roy Rose, a friend of Springsteen's from West Virginia, declined to testify against Springsteen. Rose, who is not a suspect in the killings, has said he is afraid he may be prosecuted on perjury charges stemming from "inconsistent" statements he made to Austin Police Department detectives who interrogated him in West Virginia in 1999.
On Sept. 16, 1999, Rose told APD Detectives Ron Lara and Robert Merrill that Springsteen had talked to him "on numerous occasions about a crime in Austin, Texas," and gave details about how Springsteen raped and shot one of the four teenage girls. According to his wife Charlene, Rose called Lara shortly after he left the original interview to recant his statement.
In a second sworn statement, Rose described how the two detectives fed him details of the crime and accused him of lying when Rose told them he had no information about the crime. "They were on a big fishing expedition," says Rose's Austin attorney Carolyn Denero. Under Texas law, a witness can be charged with perjury (a felony) if what he testifies to in court conflicts with any previous statements he has made.
In this case, since Rose has made two distinctly different statements, whatever he says on the stand will necessarily conflict with one of his previous statements. Because the immunity deal that the prosecutors offered to Rose in exchange for his testimony would not shield him from charges of perjury, Rose has refused to testify and has spent the last week in the Travis County jail.
The additional problem, says Denero, is that Rose is a very sick man. He reportedly suffers from diabetes, fibromyalgia, Hepatitis-C, and cancer. He is on numerous medications, needs regular radiation treatments, and requires a special diet, Denero says. But, she claims, for the first 19 days of his incarceration, Rose was denied food and access to clean drinking water.
"They told him he could drink out of the bathroom sink, and he wasn't even given a cup," says
While Rose has been transported to the Austin Cancer Center for his radiation treatments, his wife says he's still not getting enough food, water, and medication. "He's getting weaker every day," she says. "He's just not getting proper nourishment or all of his medications."
TCSO spokesman Roger Wade says jail administrators refute Rose and Denero's claims. "They
cannot corroborate anything [Rose or Denero] are saying," he says. "They are following his prescribed treatment and the nursing staff checks on him on an hourly basis."
On May 19, Texas' 3rd Court of Criminal Appeals denied Denero's request for a writ of habeas corpus. Shortly thereafter, Denero presented Rose with his options, one of which was to relent and testify.
"But he's decided to have her try and file a federal writ," says his wife. "He wants to tell the truth and he doesn't want to go to prison."
How the System Works Truth in Justice