Lester Bower - TX

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Lester Bower - TX

Post  Jennie on Tue Jun 17, 2008 8:38 pm

22nd July 2008



Last edited by Jennie on Fri Jul 04, 2008 12:23 am; edited 2 times in total
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News story about Lester...

Post  Jennie on Mon Jun 30, 2008 12:32 pm

Days from execution, inmate pins hopes on woman's story

Lester Bower, at the Polunsky Unit in East Texas, has been on death row
since 1984. He acknowledges meeting 2 of the victims on the day they died
but has denied involvement in their slayings.

Witness says condemned man isn't responsible for 1983 slayings

Since 1984, Lester Leroy Bower Jr. has sat on Texas death row, convicted
for the 1983 massacre of 4 men in a Sherman airplane hangar.

The Arlington man now faces execution on July 22, and as time runs out,
his lawyers are fighting to save his life by trying to prove he was not
the killer after all.

One key witness, a woman who came forward years ago, says it was her
then-boyfriend and 3 other drug dealers who were responsible for the
slayings.

Though a prosecutor says she is certain that the right man has been
convicted, Bowers lawyers say their investigation has verified key details
of the woman's story.

But for Bower, will it be too late?

****************

Witness says condemned man isn't responsible for 1983 slayings

Just a few paragraphs into the Star-Telegram story, the woman knew
something was terribly wrong. A man named Lester Leroy Bower Jr. was on
death row for the 1983 massacre of four men in a Sherman airplane hangar,
she read that morning in 1989. But the woman, who asked to be identified
by the pseudonym "Pearl," had reason to believe that Bower wasn't the
killer at all that it was her ex-boyfriend and three others who had
committed the crime.

The woman showed the story to her sister, the one person she had told of
her suspicions about the old boyfriend.

"Theyre going to put that guy to death for that," she remembers her sister
saying.

"Yeah, I know," Pearl replied.

"But he didn't do it?"

"No," Pearl said.

"You've got to do something," the sister said.

After a day of struggling with fears for her own life, Pearl did. The next
day, she contacted Bower's lawyers from Washington, D.C., told them her
story and signed a legal affidavit attesting to it.

Now, 19 years later, information she related is at the heart of an
increasingly urgent effort to save Bower's life. On July 22, after 24
years on Texas death row, Bower is scheduled to die by lethal injection.

Bower's lawyers say they have identified the 4 men whom Pearl alleges to
be the killers, have documented their long criminal records and have
confirmed other key parts of her story. In recent months, a defense
investigator has also located another witness, the wife of one of alleged
accomplices who said she heard the 4 men discussing the killings. The
names of the new suspects, though known to defense lawyers, have remained
sealed by court order.

"I don't want Mr. Bower to die for something that he didn't do," said
Pearl, who broke up with her boyfriend shortly after the slayings and
remains fearful of him today. Since she signed the affidavit in 1989, her
identity has been concealed by court order. "I know in my heart that he
didn't do it. I just could not in my conscience sit back and just go, 'Oh
well, sorry.'

(source for both: Fort Worth Stgar-Telegram)
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Re: Lester Bower - TX

Post  Jennie on Fri Jul 04, 2008 12:21 am

TEXAS:

Judge stays Arlington man's execution, plans hearings

A state judge in Sherman has postponed the July 22 execution date of
Lester Leroy Bower Jr. and plans to hold hearings that could involve the
Arlington man's claims of innocence.

Bowers stay of execution, signed late Monday by Judge Jim Fallon, was the
latest twist in a case that began nearly a quarter-century ago when 4 men
were found shot to death inside an airplane hangar near Sherman. In 1984,
Bower was convicted and sent to Texas' death row, where he has survived
five execution dates during a lengthy appellate process.

Prosecutors contended at his trial that Bower, now 60, killed Bob Tate,
Ronald Mayes, Jerry Mack Brown and Philip Good during the theft of an
ultralight aircraft. But defense lawyers have uncovered witnesses who
allege that other men were the killers and that the massacre occurred
during a drug deal gone bad.

"My reaction is mixed," Shari Bower, the condemned man's wife, said
Wednesday of the stay. "We've been doing this for 24 years. By the same
token, this is what we've been praying for, to get back into court and
have someone look at the evidence. Now our prayers are going to go out
that this judge will see the validity of all this."

News of Bower's stay also inspired complicated emotions among survivors of
the victims, including Lorna Mayes Murphy, the only daughter of Ronald
Mayes. Murphy was 13 when her father was slain and named her first child
after him.

"You learn to live with that over the years," she said Wednesday of her
grief. "You dont hear about it. You don't talk about it. But now, when it
comes back, this sadness, this sense of loss, it's like losing him all
over again. . . .There has to be some closure for the families."

Yet Murphy said the new evidence has raised questions in her mind about
whether the right man was convicted.

"I want to believe theyve found the man who did this. I want to believe it
was Bower," Murphy said. "I can't help it when theyre starting to bring
other evidence up. Did they get the right person? And if they didn't, they
need to find the right person. I just want it to be right. I want it to be
done and be over." Mayes' widow and Murphy's stepmother, Paula Mayes, said
Wednesday she has no doubt that Bower is the killer. Bowers stay was
another devastating setback in her ongoing attempts to heal, she said.

"I mean, there is enough evidence against him that it would almost
convince people there was an eyewitness," Paula Mayes said. "To me, he
[Bower] is the scum of the earth. I have forgiven him and tried to move
on, but he keeps weaseling his way back into my life and I think it's
wrong. This has been going on for 25 years and it's all about his rights.
What about our rights?"

The case

From the time of his arrest, Bower, a family man and chemical salesman,
has denied involvement in the killings. He has acknowledged visiting the
hangar the afternoon of the crimes to buy an ultralight aircraft from
Tate. But when first questioned by investigators, Bower repeatedly denied
making the trip to the hangar, fabrications that likely played a large
role in his conviction. He was arrested when parts of the ultralight
belonging to Tate were found in his Arlington residence. Bower was also
known to have the same kind of weapon and exotic ammunition that was used
in the massacre.

But 6 years after the killings, a witness came forward to tell defense
lawyers that her then-boyfriend talked about participating in the killings
and mentioned three accomplices. The wife of one of the other alternative
suspects recently told defense investigators that she overheard similar
discussions about the slayings. Lawyers for Bower say they have confirmed
several other key aspects of the new scenario. The names of the witnesses
and suspects have been kept under court seal.

In recent motions, Bower's lawyers have asked Fallon to allow new DNA
analysis of hair and cigarette butts found at the crime scene. The defense
hopes that the testing might link one of the other suspects to the crime.
Citing the new evidence, Bower has also asked Fallon to set aside his
conviction and death sentence. The judge could consider both requests
during hearings in the next few weeks.

"We do very much appreciate an opportunity to present those issues when
the parties and the court are not operating under the emotional pressure
that comes with an imminent execution date," defense lawyer Anthony Roth
said.

Did they get the right person? And if they didn't, they need to find the
right person. I just want it to be right. I want it to be done and be
over."

(source: Fort Worth Star-Telegram)
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Re: Lester Bower - TX

Post  Jennie on Mon Jul 07, 2008 10:31 pm

Questions raised about capital case 24 years later


3 months after 4 bodies were found shot execution-style in an airplane hangar on the B&B Ranch north of Dallas in 1984, chemical salesman Lester Leroy Bower Jr. was charged with capital murder.

4 months later, a jury deliberated just 2 hours before convicting him, then deliberated only 2 hours more the following day before deciding he should die for the crime.

No fingerprints put him at the scene. No witnesses saw him there. The murder weapon never was found. Bower never confessed. DNA testing wasn't available then.

More than 20 years later, a state judge has stopped Bower's scheduled July 22 execution and has agreed to consider his request that evidence be examined to see if DNA testing could back up his claim of innocence.

Prosecutors oppose the testing as a delaying tactic, saying Bower a mild-mannered man with no record of criminal activity or mental-health problems just snapped.

Bower made them suspicious. He had lied to his wife and to authorities about his efforts to buy an ultralight plane; she didn't want him flying such a flimsy craft. He sold firearms on the side, including the kind that fired the ammunition used to kill the men.

"I was quite capable of purchasing whatever I need without killing four people," Bower, now 60, said recently from Texas death row. "Virtually no one, except for the prosecution, thinks this sounds like anything I would do."

Bower says he had a good job and was a family man, father of 2 daughters, with a stable marriage.

"An absolutely stellar record," Bower said. "Then one day, as the prosecutor says, I snapped, killed 4 people and snapped back. Those are his words, not mine.

"I'm not minimizing that people don't snap ... Does this really sound like something I would do?"

Yes, prosecutors insist.

"Contrary to some television and movie portrayals, the fact is that no ethical prosecutor would ever seek a capital conviction, in fact any conviction, unless they were convinced of the defendant's guilt," said Ronald Sievert, a federal prosecutor who was named as a special prosecutor to assist in Bower's trial. He is now a professor of National Security Law at the University of Texas Law School and the Bush School of Government at Texas A&M University.

Bower is realistic about his chances for reprieve in the nation's most active death penalty state.

"I'm hoping somebody will take a look at it and say there seems to be enough to bring the verdict into question and there is a likelihood this is a miscarriage of justice," he said. "That's probably the best I can hope for."

Sievert and Grayson County prosecutors built a circumstantial case surrounding Bower's purchase of the ultralight airplane from sheriff's Deputy Philip Good, 29. The aircraft was stored at a hangar owned by building contractor Bob Tate, 51.

Tate; Good; Jerry Brown, 52, a Sherman interior designer; and Ronald Mayes, 39, a former Sherman police officer, were all killed at the hangar.

Bower acknowledges he lied to the FBI about his involvement in the purchase of the plane.

"If you haven't done anything wrong, there's absolutely no reason to lie to the police ever," said Karla Hackett, an assistant Grayson County district attorney handling the appeal. "When you are about up to your eyeballs in a murder investigation and they're clearly looking at you as a suspect, I think you come clean."

"In life you make decisions sometimes you wish you could take back," Bower said from prison. "I was there."

He said Brown was with Good that Saturday afternoon when he was negotiating the down payment of $3,000, or 75 %, on the airplane. They all waited about 15 minutes for Tate to show up with a key to the hangar.

Bower said he never saw Mayes.

Evidence at trial centered on Bower's 2 purchases in 1982, when he lived in Colorado Springs, Colo., of Italian-made Fiocchi-brand .22-caliber ammunition, the kind used in the killings. There also was evidence he had owned a .22-caliber Ruger pistol, which prosecutors said was fitted with a silencer he made.

Bower had a federal firearms dealer license. Prosecutors showed jurors his books about guns and gun parts, a Ruger target pistol manual and a book about silencers.

Among evidence and trial exhibits still stored in cardboard boxes at the courthouse are four plastic foam heads, the kind used to display wigs. These four, however, have long blue knitting needles stuck in them, representing the paths bullets took to kill each person.

"They took some information and twisted it to their benefit," Bower said.

Hackett responded: "When you've got time on your hands, it's real easy to sit and justify."

Investigators seized on Bower when Good's phone records showed three calls from Bower charged on his company telephone credit card.

Parts of Tate's aircraft were missing from the hangar, and the FBI found damaged wings in Bower's garage.

"We produced documentary evidence he had ordered silencer parts, we had documentary evidence he purchased a .22 Ruger, we had the evidence he purchased the Julio Fiocchi subsonic bullets, we had the Allen wrench in his brief case that fit the silencer and would attach it to the pistol," Sievert said.

Bower said he lost the pistol in 1982. His appeal says that gun couldn't have been the murder weapon because the firing pin used in its manufacture didn't match marks on bullet casings found at the hangar.

Questions about Bower's conviction first were raised in 1989. A woman called one of Bower's attorneys to say her ex-boyfriend and three of his friends were responsible for the slayings, the result of a dope deal gone bad. The identity of the witness, who signed a sworn affidavit, and the names of the four men she implicated have all been sealed by court order.

"The defense speculation about drug dealers in this case is just the type of wild speculation that all defense attorneys throw out in all capital appeals to get their client off or delay punishment," Sievert said.

Bower's attorneys point to FBI reports that initially suggested the four slayings possibly were related to drugs or gambling. And they question whether he could have driven the 135 miles from the hangar to his house in less than two hours, pointing out that his wife testified he was home by 6:30 p.m., while the killings occurred between 4:30 and 6:30 p.m.

In the defense DNA request, to be reviewed July 17, Bower's lawyers want to see if there's any DNA on crime scene evidence that matches DNA of any of the 4 men they claim are the real killers.

Hackett said the evidence has not been protected over the years. There's no guarantee it hasn't been substituted or tampered with and altered and even if testing would point to "these four mystery killers," the results couldn't say when they were at the hangar, she said.

Bower says he's ready for whatever happens:

"I told my wife I put in my time and my last words will be: 'I'm out of here. Adios, people.'"

fi (source: Associated Press)
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