Saturday, July 05, 2008

what families go through

And why closure is a misnomer...

"Yet (daughter) Murphy said the new evidence has raised questions in her mind about whether the right man was convicted." EXCERPT from article below...

Posted on Thu, Jul. 03, 2008 in The Star-Telegram
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.

Bower’s 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 four 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 don’t 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 they’ve found the man who did this. I want to
believe it was Bower," Murphy said. "I can’t help it when they’re
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. Bower’s 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 six 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."

Lorna Mayes Murphy,
the only daughter of Ronald Mayes

TIM MADIGAN, writer 817-390-7544

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