Lester Leroy Bower in an undated photo provided by the Grayson County District Clerk's office, Wednesday, July 2, 2008, in Sherman, Texas. In 1984--three months after four bodies were found shot execution-style in an airplane hangar on the B&B Ranch north of Dallas--Bower, a chemical salesman, was charged with capital murder.(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Bower hopes DNA test will clear him. State district judge stopped scheduled July 22 execution to consider evidence not available in 1984.
Excerpt from article: Bower's fingerprints were not found at the scene. No witnesses saw him there. No murder weapon was recovered. Bower didn't confessed. And DNA testing wasn't available in 1984.
Regardless of facts and outcome--is this the way our US justice system should work? How might state funds for justice and crime prevention be used more wisely?
Although this information needs updating, this estimate, evidently, still stands: Texas death penalty cases cost about three times the cost of imprisoning someone in a single cell at the highest security level for 40 years. ("Executions Cost Texas Millions," Dallas Morning News, March 8, 1992) Add to this stat the years involved in seeking the facts in Bower's case.
Texas death row inmate hopes DNA test will clear him
State district judge stops scheduled July 22 execution to consider evidence not available in 1984.
By Michael Graczyk
Sunday, July 06, 2008
SHERMAN — Three months after four people were found shot to death in an airplane hangar on the B&B Ranch north of Dallas, chemical salesman Lester Leroy Bower Jr. was charged with capital murder.
Four months later, a Grayson County jury deliberated two hours before convicting him. It took them only another two hours the next day to decide he should die for the crime.
Bower's fingerprints were not found at the scene. No witnesses saw him there. No murder weapon was recovered. Bower didn't confessed. And DNA testing wasn't available in 1984.
Now a state district judge has stopped a scheduled July 22 execution for Bower and has agreed to consider his request that evidence in the case be examined to see whether DNA testing could back up his quarter-century-long claims of innocence.
Prosecutors, who say the testing is a delaying tactic, said the salesman with a long marriage, two daughters and no record of criminal activity or mental-health problems just snapped. It happens, they said.
Bower's behavior had made investigators suspicious, officials say. He had lied to his wife, and authorities, about his efforts to buy an ultralight plane. He sold firearms on the side, including the kind that carried the ammunition used to kill the men.
Yet if mass murderers fit a profile, Bower stands out: Texas A&M University graduate, good job, family man, father of two daughters, soccer dad, stable marriage, no mental disabilities, no history of childhood abuse, no previous criminal record.
"Does this really sound like something I would do?" Bower, now 60, said recently from Texas death row.
Yes, it does, prosecutors say.
"There is no question in my mind that Bower is guilty," said Ronald Sievert, a federal prosecutor named as a special prosecutor to assist in Bower's trial.
Sievert 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. He and Grayson County District Attorney Stephen Davidchik, who has since died, built a circumstantial case surrounding Bower's purchase from Grayson sheriff's Deputy Philip Good, 29, of an ultralight airplane stored at the 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.
"I lied to the FBI about my involvement" in the purchase of the plane, Bower said. "I wish it hadn't happened."
"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 appeals on the case.
Bower said Brown was with Good that Saturday afternoon. They all waited about 15 minutes for Tate to show up with a key to the hangar.
"We got along well," Bower recalled, saying Tate welcomed him to return to use the facilities.
He never saw Mayes, Bower said.
Investigators seized on Bower when Good's phone records showed three calls from Bower charged on his company telephone credit card. Tate had told his wife that he and Good were going to meet someone they believed wanted to buy their plane.
A search of Bower's home turned up parts of Tate's ultralight aircraft missing from the hangar.
Questions about his conviction were raised in 1989 when a woman reading a newspaper article about an appeal filed in Bower's case 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 drug deal gone bad. She said she didn't know anyone had been convicted of the murders.The identity of the woman, who signed a sworn affidavit, and the names of the four men she implicated for the slayings, identified in court filings as Rocky, Ches, Lynn and Bear, have been sealed by court order.
Hackett said the woman who called Bower's lawyers has her own credibility issues and the appeal, sent to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, should be rejected.
Bower's attorneys point to FBI reports that initially suggested the four slayings possibly were drug or gambling related.
Bower's lawyers also question whether he could have driven the 135 miles from the hangar to his house in less than two hours. His wife testified he was home by 6:30 p.m. The killings occurred between 4:30 and 6:30 p.m.
In their DNA request, to be reviewed July 17, Bower's lawyers want to see whether substances on items removed from the crime scene match DNA of any of the four men they claim are the real killers.
"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," Bower said. "That's probably the best I can hope for."
Article from The Statesman Sunday 12:56 PM ET