Texas set to execute man who has spent three decades on death row
HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) -- The execution of a 67-year-old man who was convicted of killing four men more than three decades ago is set to proceed on Wednesday evening after the U.S. Supreme Court denied a last-day appeal to halt the lethal injection.
Lester Bower Jr. would be the oldest prisoner executed in the most active death penalty state since the punishment was reinstated in 1982.
He was convicted of October 1983 fatal shootings of four men at an airplane hangar on a ranch near Sherman, about 60 miles north of Dallas. Prosecutors say he killed the four after stealing an airplane that he had been trying to buy from one of his victims.
"I do have remorse," Bower, who has maintained his innocence, told The Associated Press two weeks ago from death row. "I'm remorseful for putting my family and my wife and my friends through this.
"If this is going to bring some closure to them (the victim's family), then good. But if they think by this they're executing the person that killed their loved one, then that's going to come up a little bit short."
If the execution goes ahead, Bower would be the eighth inmate given a lethal dose of pentobarbital this year in Texas, which carries out capital punishment more than any other state.
His attorneys told the high court that jurors didn't have the opportunity in their punishment deliberations to fully consider that Bower had no previous criminal record. Attorneys also contended that the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals used an incorrect legal standard when it denied an appeal for Bower a decade ago.
Stephen Hoffman, an assistant Texas attorney general, responded that 30 years of litigation was enough and justice already had been delayed "for the four families of the men that Bower slaughtered in cold blood."
The Supreme Court declined in March to review Bower's case - although three justices, Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, said they would have thrown out his death sentence. But about three hours before he was to be taken to the death chamber, the Supreme Court denied his renewed late appeal.
Bower, a chemical salesman from Arlington, was arrested and charged with capital murder after the four men were found Oct. 8, 1983.
Those killed were building contractor and B&B Ranch owner Bob Tate, 51; Grayson County Sheriff's Deputy Philip Good, 29, who sold ultralights and was trying to sell one owned by Tate; Jerry Brown, 52, a Sherman interior designer; and Ronald Mayes, 39, a former Sherman police officer.
All were "best buddies," according to Marlene Bushard, Good's wife, who planned to witness the execution.
"It's very frustrating," she said. "You move on with your life and it hits you again. I'm just looking forward to moving on."
Prosecutors built a circumstantial case that Bower, obsessed with obtaining the aircraft, stole it and shot the men as they showed up that Saturday afternoon at the hangar where Bower was to complete the purchase and where the four victims had planned to watch the Texas-Oklahoma football game on TV. Parts of the plane later were found at Bower's home.
Bower initially lied to his wife, who didn't want him to buy the plane, and to investigators who tracked him down from calls made to Good that were charged to Bower's company-issued telephone credit card. He eventually acknowledged being at the ranch, but said the victims were alive and well when he left with the disassembled plane that he properly bought, but could produce no receipt. His attorneys suggested years later that other men involved in a drug deal gone bad were responsible for the shootings.
Bower is nearly 1 1/2 years older than William Chappell, who was executed at age 66 in Texas in 2002. Nationally, a 74-year-old prisoner was put to death in Alabama in 2004. Only one other executed prisoner in Texas served more time on death row than Bower, who is 10th in seniority among Texas' 265 condemned inmates.
Capital Punishment by State and Over Time | FindTheHome
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